(Weekly Column)

If Russia is eventually freed from Vladimir Putin’s tyranny, it will partially be a result of LGBT people fighting this rogue Putinnation’s state-sponsored terror apparatus. Worldwide efforts are now underway to pressure this petro police state into abolishing its recently passed anti-gay laws.

The so-called “gay propaganda” law harshly punishes anyone who says anything positive about LGBT people or holds Pride rallies. If foreigners are arrested for violating this monstrosity, it can lead to 15 days in jail and deportation (or as some may call it, freedom). There is also a grotesque new law that bans adoptions of Russian children by people who live in nations that allow gay marriage.

Predictably, the deplorable crackdown and homophobic bile spewed by Russian officials has led to an upswing in anti-gay violence, giving neo-Nazi thugs free rein to target vulnerable LGBT people. This horrific situation is comparable to giving hooligans in America a pat on the back for committing hate crimes, while blaming the victims for existing. This disgusting abdication of Russian leadership has inverted the nation’s moral compass and given license to deplorable crimes against humanity.

What is occurring in Russia is a psychotic pogrom against homosexuals. The goal is to terrorize and humiliate LGBT people and make their lives a living hell. Such ignorant bullying and cruel barbarism will not stand and Russia will pay a prohibitive price for its outrageous actions.

If Russia doesn’t end its war on gay people, the worldwide LGBT community and their millions of heterosexual allies will make so much noise that the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be turned into a gay rights spectacle. It will be GAY, GAY, GAY, GAY all night and day – and there isn’t a damn thing that Russia can do about it without creating an international furor that will overshadow their undeserved moment on the world stage.

Much of this venomous hatred can be traced to the Russian Orthodox Church and its corrupt leader, the bejeweled Patriarch Kirill I. This weekend, Putin joined Kirill in a Kiev ceremony “deepening the ties and common agenda of the Kremlin and Russian Orthodox Church,” according to the New York Times.

The only silver lining is that crooked religious leaders, who are cynically co-opted by police states, usually end up discredited while bringing ill repute to the church. This is precisely what happened in Spain, for example, where the Roman Catholic Church damaged its reputation by supporting Franco.

There are several points of leverage that must be explored to pressure Russia into behaving like a civilized nation:

Boycotting the Olympics:  This is unlikely, given that the event is only months away. There are also conflicting opinions regarding a boycott in the LGBT community, with some advocates preferring to participate in the games and make a pro-LGBT statement on Russian soil. Nevertheless, the very threat of a boycott should continue, because it has caused the media to pay attention to the dire situation.

Pressuring NBC: This network will be airing the Olympic games. It would be unconscionable if they allowed Putin to whitewash Russia’s crimes against humanity. NBC has a moral responsibility to broadcast an accurate portrayal of this nation – and not simply peddle puff pieces that depict this backward country as a lovely winter wonderland. I want to see hard-hitting news segments that not only showcase the plight of LGBT victims, but highlight attacks on the Russian media and the jailing of the nation’s political opposition.

Human Rights Campaign President, Chad Griffin, wrote a letter addressed to NBCUniversal chief executive Steve Burke and multiple NBC executives.  Unfortunately, the initial response from the network has been disappointing.

NBC Sports chief Mark Lazarus pledged on Saturday to do the bare minimum:

“We will address those issues as they are relevant at the time of the Games, as has always been done by NBC’s coverage,” Lazarus said.

LGBT Russians are already being beaten, targeted, persecuted, intimidated, bullied, humiliated, and imprisoned. Clearly, these issues are already relevant and Lazarus should begin planning his coverage of this pogrom now.

Boycotting Russian Products: The international media is paying attention to a boycott of Russian vodka at gay bars – so nyet_surrenderthis tactic has already proven to be successful. This boycott should extend to ALL Russian-made products. The burgeoning American caviar industry should immediately capitalize on this situation and begin promoting “socially conscious caviar” to boost their market share. Not only would this help Russia’s oppressed LGBT people, but it would also create American jobs during a time of high unemployment.

Targeting American Companies: American companies should reconsider doing business with Russia until the nation stops persecuting its gay citizens. Talk radio host, Michelangelo Signorile, put together a list of companies to focus on, including Caterpillar, Ernst & Young, Holiday Inn Express, and Procter & Gamble.

Long Term Strategies: Russia is able to flout international norms because of its enormous profits from the energy sector. An op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times by Richard Rosecrance stated, “…when oil prices rose, abundant energy supplies allowed Russia to conclude that it didn’t need the West, nor did it need to be democratic.” America and Europe should pursue energy policies that dry up this toxic Russian income stream. We should also support an enhanced Euro-American free trade zone that would create an economic power with half the world’s gross domestic product – thus freezing out the Evil Empire.

We won the Cold War through ingenuity and perseverance, and this Berlin Wall of bigotry shall crumble too.