Tensions continue between Russia and the United States in light of an anti-gay law that could jeopardize athletes during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Nick Symmonds. via Phil Roeder on flickr

Nick Symmonds. via Phil Roeder on flickr

American Olympic athletes have pledged that they will still attend the Olympics despite calls for a boycott from activists. Nick Symmonds, a 800-meter runner and supporter of gay rights, posted on his blog that if he races against a Russian athlete, “I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his (butt) in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home.” Johnny Weir, Olympic figure skater and openly gay, has said he is prepared to be arrested at the Olympics. “In Russia, just the sheer fact that you could be gay, you can get arrested, fined, and it’s a terrible thing to even think of,” he said. “Myself, even, just walking down the street, going to get Starbucks in the morning, and somebody could arrest me just because I look too gay.” But he resolved that despite the threat he will go “Because [this is] what I’m trained to do and [this is] what I’ve devoted my life to.”

While the Olympics are putting the country in the spotlight, Russia’s anti-gay laws are an example of a trend that is spreading in Eastern Europe. Earlier this year, Poland’s former president Lech Walesa told reporters that LGBT members of Parliament should have to sit in back “and even behind a wall.” On the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnel, Stuart Milk, LGBT activist and nephew of Harvey Milk, told Lawrence “This is what we’re seeing not just in Russia, but throughout eastern Europe. You know, I just got back from the Baltic states, from the backyard of Moscow, and we’ve seen these law come up for a vote. And even in the European Union. At the heart, these laws reflect some of the societal attitudes that we have been working on.”