‘Religious Freedom’ Laws Could Disqualify The US From Hosting Olympic Games

When the International Olympic Committee approved proposal 14 of the Olympic Agenda last year, forbidding games from being held in countries with anti-gay laws, the United States just may have been included as an unfriendly country. The proposal specifically states:

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.

An obvious response to the embarrassment that was Sochi, where conservative hero Vladimir Putin made a mockery of the Olympics and everything they stand for.

With the Olympic Committee moving in a progressive direction, is the United States at risk of losing possible future Olympic engagements? The language of proposition 14 is pretty clear that no discrimination will be tolerated. Does that eliminate Indiana and some of the other states with “religious freedom” acts?

It’s an interesting question, because in some places, legalized discrimination is exactly what a religious freedom referendum is. 31 of the 50 states and the federal government have some form of religious freedom act:


Bear in mind that many of these states, as well as the federal government, have specific anti-discrimination laws in effect that protect the LGBT community from discrimination. In places like Indiana, however, the very language of the law made discrimination against gay men and women perfectly legal. After the uproar, the state passed a band-aid that gave protections to LGBT’s in a limited capacity, but in rural Indiana you can still be denied a pizza for being who you are.

It isn’t just Indiana. Of those 31 states, 19 have laws that in some way legalize discrimination. Florida has made it legal for state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against gay couples. A bed and breakfast owner in Texas evicted a gay couple because of their religious beliefs.

How will this play with the Olympic Committee in awarding future sites the honor of hosting the games?

It’s not just archaic state laws allowing discrimination but an extremely vocal right-wing, its leaders included, that should concern Americans. The world already sees our political landscape as polarized and intolerant. The recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide, with a 63 percent public approval rating, is still in the news and all over the internet, with Republican leaders and candidates like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee promising to either overturn equality or ignore the ruling because they don’t agree with it.

In deciding on a world stage for a massive event, the IOC must have to consider the particulars of every situation. If, for example, they were presented with a London vs. Louisiana showdown, which area is more likely to see droves of  “patriots” with confederate flags protesting a young swimmer from another country who plans to marry his soul-mate shortly after the games?

While the individual city is important to the decision-making process, the national setting has to play a role. Russians, for example, will likely not see another Olympic Games in their country in their lifetime, regardless of how progressive a specific city becomes, unless there is serious change on the national level.

Until the United States can fully embrace the change we may very well be in the same boat.

It’s fairly disturbing that a close look at America’s politics and laws could put us on the same playing field as Kazakstan and China; one where nobody is watching.

Conservatives are probably thrilled that we may not have to worry about those gay-colored Olympic rings and that we’ve finally been put on the same pedestal as the great Vladimir Putin, an ignorant regressive who is everything they admire in a bigot.

Featured image: Queerty.com