Hollywood leads charge against Russia's anti-gay law
The entertainment industry is giving full voice to their criticism of the Russian anti-gay statute. They've singled out Russia because the 2014 Winter Olympics are going to be held in the city of Sochi and gay fans of the games don't want to be arrested simply for exhibiting what in Russia is politically incorrect behavior.
The International Olympic Committee wants assurances from the Russian government but Moscow is standing firm, saying that the law must be respected.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted Thursday that Olympic athletes would have to respect the laws of the country during the Sochi Games. On Friday, he said there was no way Russia would back down under political pressure.
Referring to Western criticism, Mutko was quoted as saying by Interfax: "I wouldn't call the pressure light. Russia must understand that the stronger we are, the more other people aren't going to like it. We have a unique country."
"We don't have to be afraid of threats to boycott the Olympic Games," Mutko said. "All sensible people understand that sports demand independence, that it is inadmissible that politics intervene."
On Thursday, Mutko did make it clear that the private lives and privacy of athletes would be respected as it is guaranteed by the Russian constitution
Rogge said that was essential.
"The Olympic charter is clear," Rogge said. "A sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation."
Even if Russia accepts that principle, the law leaves open the issue of athletes speaking freely during the games.
"As far as the freedom of expression is concerned, of course, this is something that is important," Rogge said. "But we cannot make a comment on the law" until the clarifications have been received.
The All Out advocacy group said it was happy with Rogge's comments.
"This is the strongest and most direct statement we have received from the International Olympic Committee. It shows the IOC is listening to the global outcry," said All Out Executive Director Andre Banks.
Several Hollywood types are comparing the Russian anti-gay law to the Nazis:
From Hollywood to Broadway, the entertainment industry is using its star power and financial muscle to raise a storm of protest over the anti-gay legislation in Russia that is battering the image of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Actor-playwright Harvey Fierstein, British writer-actor Stephen Fry and Star Trek actor George Takei are among those who have publicly condemned the new law, fueling an uproar that is overshadowing preparations for the Feb. 7-23 Olympics.
With stars and activists using their high-profile platform to bring the issue to global attention, the gay rights crackdown in Russia has exploded into a hot-button controversy that is challenging Olympic leaders like no other since the protests over Tibet and human rights before the 2008 Games in Beijing.
The law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, imposes fines and up to 15 days in prison for violators. Hefty fines are levied for holding gay pride rallies. Foreigners can be deported.
Whether Putin is listening to the outcry is unclear, but the backlash has even triggered calls for a boycott of the games that he was instrumental in securing for Russia.[...]
"One of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kinds of attitudes that we're seeing here," Obama said Friday. "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker."
These Hollywood types aren't very self-aware are they? Hundreds of millions of women, Christians, and gays are openly persecuted in Arab and other Muslim countries. Where's this kind of outrage for them?
Fierstein -- winner of Tony Awards for the play Torch Song Trilogy -- wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times last month saying Putin "has declared war on homosexuals" and calling on world leaders and the International Olympic Committee to demand the retraction of the laws under threat of a boycott.
"Mr. Putin's campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain straight from the Nazi playbook," Fierstein wrote.
Fry, the British entertainer and activist, posted an open letter this week to Cameron and the IOC comparing Putin's "barbaric, fascist law" to persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany.
Russia is an easy target, ergo the "Nazi" references. The real problem for the Olympics is that the government may not enforce the law, but roving gangs of anti-gay Russians might take matters into their own hands and beat up anyone exhibiting openly gay behavior.
If the uproar continues, it may begin to affect TV sponsorships as companies pull their ads as a result of the controvery. Given the enormous amount of money that NBC has invested in carrying the games, it is in the network's interest that the entire affair just go away.