A group of Nobel laureates has written an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging him to repeal the so-called “gay propaganda law” as it “inhibits the freedom of local and foreign” LGBT communities.
The letter, co-written by two old friends – chemist Sir Harry Kroto and actor Sir Ian McKellen – was published exclusively by The Independent.
"The letter is written to indicate that many senior members of the international scientific community show solidarity with politicians, artists, sports people and many others who have already expressed their abhorrence for the Russian government's actions against its gay citizens," the letter stated.
It has been co-signed by 27 Nobel Laureates from the fields of science and the arts.
The letter says the laureates are expressing their opposition to the law as a way of encouraging Russia to “embrace the 21st century humanitarian, political and inclusive” principles that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev “worked so hard to achieve.”
Kroto and McKellen state that the Russian law that imposes restrictions on propagating non-traditional sexual relations to minors, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June 2013, “inhibits” the freedom of not only local but also foreign LGBT people.
Sir Ian McKellen, who starred in The Hobbit and X-Men movies, said he canceled his visit to Russia because he was warned by the UK Foreign Office that he would not be allowed to speak openly about his sexuality, at least if there were people under 18 years old present.
Kroto also said he was considering not going to Russia in 2014, but decided to go in the end.
“I accepted an invitation some time ago to go to Russia in 2014 before this issue arose and although I have considered seriously canceling my visit I have decided to go,” he said, but then warned that this would be his last unless the law was repealed or “a serious effort is made by the Russian Government to ensure the safety of the Russian LGBT community.”
The letter comes shortly before the Winter Olympic Games in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi in February.
Russia has been severely criticized by several governments, equality campaigners and human rights groups over the law with concerns raised that the legislation could apply to expressions of public affection by LGBT athletes and fans at the Sochi Games.
However, the Russian government has said there is no discrimination and that the law was designed to protect children and doesn’t in any way violate the rights of gays.
In October, Putin assured the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, that Russia “will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation.”
The International Olympic Committee also said that Russia’s legislation doesn't violate the Olympic charter’s anti-discrimination clause.
The so-called “gay propaganda” law introduces fines for propaganda of non-traditional sex relations to minors, including in the media, on the internet and via viral adverts. The law stipulates fines for giving children propaganda about homosexuality.
Individuals could be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($150) for such “propaganda” and foreigners could be fined the same amount, held in jail for 15 days and deported. Officials will have to pay up to 50,000 rubles ($ 1,500) and companies up to 500,000 rubles (S15,000).