Russian Athletes Kiss to Protest Anti-Gay Law

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 18 2013 7:40 AM

Russian Athletes Kiss on Winners Podium to Protest Anti-Gay Law

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Russia's Tatyana Firova (right) and Russia's Kseniya Ryzhova kiss after winning the women's 4 x 400 meter relay at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow on August 17

Photo by YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Two female Russian athletes kissed on the winners podium to protest Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, reports Sky News. Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova kissed after they helped their team win the 4 x 400 meter relay at the World Athletics Championship in Moscow on Saturday. While Sky News seems certain that the kiss was a political statement, others aren’t so sure. Gay Star News says it is “unclear” whether the kiss was merely a sign of affection or whether the athletes were “blatantly defying Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ laws since neither of the athletes have released a statement.” Regardless, the kiss could land the athletes in legal trouble considering it expressly goes against the much-criticized law that bans anything that may be seen as a promotion of homosexuality.

The kiss came a day after Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva claimed she “may have been misunderstood” by her anti-gay comments that made news around the world Thursday. "English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday," she said. The popular athlete sparked much controversy when she spoke in favor of the anti-gay propaganda law. "We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys,” Isinbayeva had said. Later she backtracked saying that she was just trying to say “people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests,” according to the Toronto Sun. Isinbayeva made her comments after at least two Swedish athletes competed with their fingernails painted in rainbow colors.

A growing number of people are calling for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics due to the anti-gay law. Athletes are also joining in on the criticism of the law. U.S. runner Nick Symmonds became the first athlete to openly criticize the law on Russian soil after he won the 800-meter silver medal. Symmonds had vowed to not mention the issue while in Russia, but told CNN he “couldn’t stay silent anymore” after watching footage of a man shoving two women who were kissing in the street.  Two NHL stars—Henrik Zetterberg and Victor Hedman—have also criticized the law, reports USA Today.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.