A group of senators warned Friday that the reputation of the Olympics would be damaged if Russian authorities were to arrest or harass lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes or spectators at the Winter Games.
A day after the Senate approved gay rights legislation in a historic bipartisan vote, a dozen senators wrote International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach that a Russian law banning "homosexual propaganda" violates the Olympic Charter.
The lawmakers also dismissed assurances from Russian authorities that the law would not be used to intimidate visitors to the Sochi Olympics. Dozens of supporters of LGBT rights have been beaten and arrested since Russia adopted the law earlier this year.
"Discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation is inconsistent with the Charter, and clearly contrary to the spirit of the Olympics," wrote the senators, including Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,
All voted Thursday for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law passed 64-32.
The Olympic Charter doesn't specifically mention sexual orientation, but it does state that "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."
The IOC has not raised objections to the law or its enforcement on Russian citizens, and it has said that 'a long as the charter is upheld, we are fully satisfied.'
But the senators urged the committee to go a step further and insist that the host country abide by the principles of nondiscrimination in the charter.
"We are not reassured by vague public statements from some Russian Federation authorities that there will be 'no discrimination,' when the very nature of this law is discriminatory," they wrote.