Prison Break star Wentworth Miller, in an extraordinary open letter, has declined an invite to attend a Russian film festival, citing Russia’s devolving gay rights situation and for the first time publicly confirming his sexuality.
Miller had been invited to the St. Petersburg International Film Festival but, in a letter that was also posted on the GLAAD website, has now declined saying that he is “deeply troubled” by Russia’s treatment of gay men and women:
Dear Ms. Averbakh:
Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes.
However, as a gay man, I must decline.
I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government. The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.
Perhaps, when and if circumstances improve, I’ll be free to make a different choice.
Member, The ManKind Project
During his time in the hit show Prison Break, Miller had previously reportedly denied being gay and had reportedly talked about wanting to settle down with a woman.
Regardless, his coming out at the age of 41 and the manner in which it was done has been seen as a powerful statement of advocacy and a message of solidarity to LGBT Russians.
“Wentworth’s bold show of support sends a powerful message to LGBT Russians, who are facing extreme violence and persecution: you are not alone,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz.” As people from across the globe continue to speak out against Russia’s horrific law, more celebrities and corporations should follow his courageous lead in openly condemning Russia’s anti-LGBT law.”
This show of support for Russia’s LGBT population comes during a week where more stories of violence have emerged even while Russian officials continue to deny the country is targeting gay people.
In a letter sent to the Olympic governing body, the IOC, concerning the Russian city of Sochi hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Russian officials stated that sexual orientation is protected under the law and that the so-called national “propaganda ban” does not target gay people but rather those attempting to spread “non-traditional sexuality.”
Despite vast evidence to the contrary, the IOC appears satisfied that Russia’s laws do comply with the Olympic Charter:
“We have today received strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation,” IOC President Jacques Rogge is quoted as saying. “In his letter Deputy Prime Minister (Dmitry) Kozak underlines that ‘Russia has committed itself to comply strictly with the provisions of the Olympic Charter and its fundamental principles, according to item 6 of which “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.’”
To be clear, the letter does not clarify whether LGBT athletes will be prosecuted should they flout the propaganda ban and, with no evidence to the contrary, we must assume based on previous statements made by Russian officials that they will be — something that is still in violation of the Olympic Charter.
Given that more and more evidence is emerging of Neo-Nazi groups in Russia specifically targeting gay and trans people, and most significantly with no evidence of laws forbidding such attacks being properly enforced, the IOC will have to do more than cite Russian assurances in order to assuage criticism that Sochi should never have been chosen as the venue for the Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, calls to boycott the games or for athletes to otherwise flout Russia’s propaganda law continue to grow.
A number of rights groups and concerned organizations have in recent days increased their calls that government officials explicitly denounce Russia’s anti-LGBT onslaught. Some officials are, fortunately, doing just that with Australian Senator Bob Carr telling Gay Star News “The Australian Embassy in Moscow has made repeated representations condemning this legislation,” and that Australia “believes that human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent.”
Still, many nations’ leaders have yet to even recognize the issue of Russia’s eroding human rights landscape, something that may be politically convenient but lends tacit support to the anti-LGBT oppression currently seen within Russia’s borders.