Gay Paralympic Equestrian Says He’ll Face Jail to Stand Up to Putin
Openly gay Paralympic equestrian gold medalist Lee Pearson is prepared to go to jail to bring the global spotlight to the crackdown on gay rights in Russia.
According to an article on The Daily Mail Online, the out gay sportsman, who was born with a congenital disorder which left him with badly twisted limbs, says that he will come to the Olympics in Sochi, and is not afraid to challenge Vladimir Putin’s laws being used to target Russia’s gays.
In early February, the 22nd Winter Olympics will open in Sochi, the resort city on Russia’s Black Sea coast. And Pearson plans to be there to speak out against Putin’s laws, even if it means facing arrest and a 15-day prison sentence that foreign offenders are subject to for "distributing gay propaganda to minors."
"I don’t care if it means I go to prison," said Pearson. "In some respects I hope I do because then the Prime Minister and my country would have to get involved and that would add to the embarrassment for Russia."
The Daily Mail article noted that in the prior week, there were 67 arrests concerning protests over Russia’s anti-gay laws in St. Petersburg as Putin launched the Olympic flame on its four-month journey to Sochi.
Pearson is incensed that the Olympic movement itself seems reluctant to take on the issue of gay rights in Russia. When the International Olympic Committee’s coordinating commission made their last inspection tour of Sochi, they declared that Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws did not violate the principles of the Olympic Charter.
Pearson argued that those calling for a boycott of the Olympics and Paralympics did not understand that it was the one chance that these sportsmen had to achieve their goals. But the bigger reason to be there, he said, is the need to educate the world about the legislation, which critics say is being used to terrorize gays and lesbians.
"It is shocking. It’s like Germany in the Thirties. We shouldn’t ignore this," said Pearson.