The following is reposted from The NY Times.
Australian Rugby Adopts Anti-Homophobia Policy
By Emma Stoney
WELLINGTON — The Australian Rugby Union said Wednesday that it would start an “inclusion policy” to stamp out homophobia throughout rugby in Australia. The move came less than two weeks after Russian officials had to defend legislation that has been criticized as anti-gay when Moscow hosted the world track and field championships.
The A.R.U. governs both the amateur and professional games in Australia, and rugby union will become the first sport in that country to specifically create an anti-homophobia policy. And in doing so, rugby union will become one of the highest-profile team sports in the world to tackle the issue.
The new code will be separate from the existing anti-discrimination guidelines that the union already has, and it is likely to include anti-homophobia programs for young players, along with high-profile players taking a leading role in public awareness campaigns.
The announcement by the A.R.U. was timed to coincide with the one-year countdown to the 2014 Bingham Cup, known as the gay Rugby World Cup, which will be held in Sydney next August.
The A.R.U. said Wednesday that it would consult with the gay rugby community and with government agencies, including the Australian Sports Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission, to make sure the policy would be in place for the start of the Bingham Cup, which will involve 40 teams from around the world.
“This is really quite specific around homophobia and very specific to the gay and lesbian community,” the A.R.U. chief executive, Bill Pulver, said in a telephone interview. “Obviously, it’s consistent with other policies we have to eliminate all forms of discrimination and treat everybody with respect and dignity.
“But around the gay World Cup it’s to just stress that whether it is players, supporters, coaches or administrators, they all feel safe, welcome and included regardless of race, gender and sexuality.”
Organizers of the Bingham Cup said they hoped the A.R.U.’s policy would be matched in the coming year by other football codes in Australia: Australian rules football, rugby league and soccer.
“Homophobia in sport is still common, and it particularly harms young people,” said Andrew Purchas, president of the 2014 Bingham Cup organizing committee and a founder of the Sydney Convicts, the first rugby club in Australia to actively include gays.
“All the major football codes, and all sporting organizations in Australia, have an opportunity to make a very meaningful change and create a sporting culture that is accepting and inclusive.”
David Pocock, an openside flanker for the Australian rugby union national team, praised the new policy on Twitter.
Pocock, who has said he will not formally marry his partner, Emma, until gay marriage is legal in Australia, will also join his Wallabies teammate Adam Ashley-Cooper and two former Wallabies, John Eales and Nick Farr-Jones, as ambassadors for the Sporting Heroes End Homophobia program.
While there are plenty of players, coaches, administrators and referees who are happy to promote equality within the game, rugby still has very few people who are open about their homosexuality, particularly at the elite level.
There are exceptions, though, like Nigel Owens, a referee at the international level who came out in 2007, and the former Wales national team player Gareth Thomas, who revealed he was gay in 2009 while still playing professionally. He retired from rugby in 2011.
Purchas said in a news release that he hopes the Bingham Cup, currently held by the Sydney Convicts, will continue to change attitudes towards gays in the sport. “Bingham Cup 2014 will give Sydney the chance to witness the passion with which gay communities from around the world have taken to the rugby pitch,” he said. “It might also dispel a few myths along the way by showing Australia that gay men can and do play tough contact sports like rugby.”
In June, the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, signed a law banning “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships.” During the world track and field championships in Moscow this month, several Swedish athletes painted their nails in rainbow colors as a sign of solidarity with gay people, and athletes were often asked about their reaction to the law. The law also has prompted calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia.