After pressure from Athlete Ally, the International Olympic Committee, and athletes around the globe, Kazakhstan’s Constitutional Council last week struck down proposed legislation that would have banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation” in the country. With Kazakhstan bidding to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, this law would have been in direct opposition to the integrity and fairness of the Olympic Games, and we commend the IOC and the Constitutional Council for upholding the integrity and fairness of the Olympic Movement.
With the passing of the bill in the Kazakh Senate in February, Athlete Ally and over 30 Olympic, Paralympic and professional athletes sent an open letter to the IOC urging them to reiterate to Kazakh authorities that discrimination with regard to sexual orientation is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Facing pressure from Athlete Ally, All Out and the international sport community after the 2014 Olympic Winter Games were allowed to take place in Russia, a country with a similar anti-gay law, the IOC enshrined non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter.
Following the widespread support and sharing of this letter by elite athletes, news agencies and human rights groups, the IOC issued a response reiterating that any city hosting the Games must abide by the non-discrimination values of the Olympic Charter. Shortly after this response, news broke that the anti-gay bill had been struck down.
This marks an important victory for the international sporting community, as it once again demonstrates the power and influence that we can all have when we come together in the name of inclusion and fair play. Our impact reaches far beyond the lines of our courts and fields, and touches the lives, safety and wellbeing of people around the globe.
Yet we must not rest on our laurels. While we have made incredible strides towards inclusion, inequality and discrimination remain the norm in many areas of the world. It is illegal to be gay in 83 countries, including 5 in which gay citizens can face the death penalty. Indeed, a law similar to the one struck down in Kazakhstan is currently under consideration in its neighbor, Kyrgyzstan. We must continue to speak out for equality, not just when it impacts us directly, but whenever it is threatened around the world. Our voices are our most powerful weapon, and they are strongest when they’re united.