Two female runners from Russia kissed on the gold medal podium at the World Athletics Championships on Saturday in what’s being perceived as a protest against the country’s anti-gay laws.
After winning gold in the 4×400-meter relay, Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova shared a kiss. They kissed again as they stood together during the award ceremony.
The action comes as other athletes have made open displays of support for homosexual during the games in Moscow. Pole vaulters have painted their poles rainbow colors to support gays, and others have painted nails in rainbow colors.
The actions are a protest against a law passed this year in Russia outlawing homosexual propaganda. Critics believe the law gives the Russian government wide-ranging authority to arrest and fine gays for any displays of homosexuality.
Under the law, Tatyana Firova and Kseniya Ryzhova could be subject to fines for promoting a homosexual agenda. Lawmakers who crafted the bill say it is meant to protect younger Russians from seeing homosexual propaganda.
The law garnered more controversy when a lawmaker suggested that it would be enforced during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, meaning possible fines for gay athletes from foreign countries.
Not everyone believes the law is a big deal. Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister, said the commotion over the anti-gay law was all being cooked up by the media.
“I think this is kind of an invented problem,” he told reporters during a press conference, according to Reuters. “We don’t have a law banning non-traditional sexual relations, we have a different law.”
Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, considered the top track and field star in the country, also seemed to support the law in statements last week. She addressed the talk of boycotts for the 2014 Olympics, saying others should respect Russia’s right to make its own laws.
“It’s unrespectful to our country,” she said at a news conference Thursday. “It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different than European people, than other people from different lands. We have our law, which everyone has to respect.”
But Isinbayeva later backtracked her comments, saying she was against any discrimination of gay athletes.
The Russian runners who shared a kiss on the award podium have not issued a statement about the meaning of their action.