Open Letter to the IOC on Kazakhstan's Anti-Gay Legislation

  • May 19, 2015

With the bid process for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games already underway, a potential host city is yet again considering enacting anti-gay propaganda laws similar to those passed in Russia prior to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Almatay, Kazakhstan is one of two cities under official consideration from the International Olympic Committee. This choice would directly undermine the IOC’s own Olympic Charter, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The addition of “sexual orientation” to the charter came on the heels of the Principle 6 campaign, spearheaded by Athlete Ally and All Out, which activated the voices of scores of Olympians, professional athletes, celebrities and activists to celebrate the Olympic principle of non-discrimination, and advocate for the IOC to evaluate human rights issues within Olympic host nations. The laws passed in Russia resulted in increased violence towards LGBT people across the nation, a trend that simply can’t continue. Olympic, Paralympic, and professional athletes are once again coming together to voice their concern, before the bid is awarded.

“The Olympic Principles must be put into practice for them to mean anything at all,” said Athlete Ally Founder and Executive Director Hudson Taylor. “The IOC has a tremendous opportunity here to impact positive change, not only in the world of sport, but in the greater global community. If Kazakhstan wishes to host the games, they must not pass laws that go against the Olympic Charter.”

“We’ve drafted a letter with the support of many of the same athletes who supported the Principle 6 campaign. The strength of their voices, coupled with their experience, holds a tremendous amount of weight, and we hope the IOC will listen,” said Ashland Johnson, Policy Director for Athlete Ally.

Legendary Olympian Greg Louganis, a long-time LGBT-rights activist, said, "I know what it's like to seek and achieve the Olympic dream. But, if the Games are held in Kazakhstan with anti-gay laws on the books, like what we saw in Russia, that dream will be broken for athletes like me. I am signing this letter to urge President Bach and the IOC to take action so that history doesn't repeat itself, and to stay true to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.”

UPDATE: Via a statement released on May 19th, the IOC responded to the letter: "It is our responsibility to make sure the Olympic Charter is fully respected for ALL participants of the Olympic Games. As part of Olympic Agenda 2020 we recently changed our Fundamental Principle 6 of the Charter to include an explicit bar on any form of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. This clause is included in the Host City Contract which any city staging the Games must sign."

Read the Letter:

Dear President Bach,

The Olympic movement is built upon the fundamental principles of respect and inclusion and the belief that the experiences of athletes and fans should be free from discrimination of any kind. As current and former Olympic, Paralympic and professional athletes, we believe in the fundamental principles of Olympism and that maintaining the integrity of the Olympic movement requires potential host countries to abide by these Olympic ideals.

Under your leadership, non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been enshrined in the Olympic Charter and placed in the Olympic Host City contracts. The Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms you championed are a powerful step forward for the global sports community. However, implementation will be key.

In light of Kazakhstan’s aspirations to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and their recent consideration of legislation prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation,” we urge the IOC to reiterate to Kazakh authorities that discrimination with regard to sexual orientation is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.

The IOC is in a unique position as the global leader in sport to communicate to the Kazakh authorities that no discriminatory legislation should be adopted or implemented.

We were extremely proud to see the leadership of the IOC amend Principle 6 of the Olympic charter to include sexual orientation and believe these changes in principles will strengthen the Olympic movement for generations to come. It is now time to call on Kazakhstan and any other country wishing to host the games, to put those principles into practice.

Together in Sport,

Aaron Peirsol – 5X Olympic Gold Medalist, 2X Olympic Silver Medalist, Swimming, United States

Greg Louganis - 4X Olympic Gold Medalist, Olympic Silver Medalist, Diving, United States

Charline Labonté - 3X Olympic Gold Medalist,Ice Hockey, Canada

Caryn Davies - 2X Olympic Gold Medalist, Olympic Silver Medalist, Rowing, United States

Mark Tewksbury - Olympic Gold Medalist, Olympic Silver Medalist, Olympic Bronze Medalist, Swimming, Canada 

Martina Navratilova - Olympic Tennis Player, 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam doubles and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, United States

Esther Lofgren - Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowing, United States

Lori Lindsey - Olympic Gold Medalist, Soccer, United States

Megan Rapinoe - Olympic Gold Medalist, Soccer, United Stated

Lee Ford - ParaPan Am Gold Medalist, Archery, United States

Rennae Stubbs - Four-time Olympian, Tennis, Australia 

Ji Wallace - Olympic Silver Medalist, Trampolining, Australia

Kim Vandenberg – Olympic Bronze Medalist, Swimming, United States

Simona Meiler - Olympic Snowboarder, Switzerland 

Callan Chythlook-Sifsof - Olympic Snowboarder, United States

Alex Duckworth - Olympic Snowboarder, Canada 

Belle Brockhoff - Olympic Snowboarder, Australia

Carrie Sheinberg - Olympic Alpine Skier, United States

Anastasia Bucsis - Olympic Speedskater, Canada

Eric Miller – Olympic Ski Jumper, Canada

Rosie Cossar – Olympic Rhythmic Gymnast, Canada

Andy Hrovat - Olympic Wrestler, United States

Jake Herbert - Olympic Wrestler, United States 

TC Dantzler - Olympic Wrestler, United States

Rudi Swiegers - Olympic Figure Skater, Canada

Eli Wolff - Paralympic Soccer Player, United States

Kenneth Faried - National Basketball Association, Denver Nuggets, United States

Robbie Rogers - Major League Soccer, LA Galaxy, United States

Sean Avery - National Hockey League, New York Rangers, United States 

Joanna Lohman - National Women's Soccer League, Washington Spirit, United States

Sally Shipard - Women's National Soccer Team, Australia 

Brock McClean - Australian Rules Football, Australia 

Phaidra Knight - Women's National Rugby Team, United States