In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Barack Obama on Tuesday night said that he expected Russia to welcome gay and lesbian athletes to the 2014 Sochi Olympics because the country has “a big stake in making sure the Olympics work.” The conversation stemmed from a question Leno asked about the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia, which Leno characterized as a place where “homosexuality is against the law.”
A top Russian government official recently stated that, even during the Olympics, the country would enforce a new law that prohibits “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors.” The law, signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin in June, also bans public events that promote gay rights and public displays of affection by same-sex couples.
The International Olympic Committee has stated publicly that athletes and visitors attending the 2014 Sochi Games in Russia will not be affected by the anti-gay legislation. “I mean, this seems like Germany,” Leno said. “Let’s round up the Jews, let’s round up the gays, let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that. You round up people who you don’t — I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?”
President Obama responded that he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”