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Obama: No tolerance for Russia treating gays, lesbians differently at Olympics (video)

Aug 7, 2013, 6:07 AM EST

President Barack Obama was clear on his stance against Russia’s anti-gay law and how it should (or shouldn’t) affect the Sochi Olympics in an interview on “The Tonight Show” that aired Tuesday night.

“When it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country,” Obama said. “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”

Russian news outlet RT.com explains the Russian law here:

The legislation “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors” was enacted on June 30, when it was signed by president Putin. It’s an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development”.

If found guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships”, individuals could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150). The sum would be multiplied by 10 if those individuals appear to be civil servants. Organizations, meanwhile, would have to pay 1 million rubles (about $30,000) or have their activity suspended for 90 days if they do not comply with the fresh amendment.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport last week that the law would be enforced during the Olympics, but other Russian officials have said the Games will be exempt.

The International Olympic Committee said two weeks ago it “received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

Obama echoed that sentiment.

“I think (Russian president Vladimir) Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently,” he said. “They’re athletes. They’re there to compete. If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam. People’s sexual orientations shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

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