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article imageEntertainment world leads outcry against Russia's anti-gay law

By Layne Weiss     Aug 10, 2013 in World
Sochi - The entertainment industry is using its power and muscle to start a protest against the anti-gay legislation that has been passed in Russia.
Actor-playwright Harvey Fierstein, British writer-actor Stephen Fry, and Star Trek's George Takei are just a few of the people who have publicly condemned the law, which was passed in June, The Associated Press reports. The anti-gay legislation has fueled an uproar, which is overshadowing preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Last month, Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-Ed piece for The New York Times saying that Putin had "declared war on homosexuals." He called on world leaders and the International Olympic Committee (the IOC) to demand that Russia repudiate the laws under the threat of an Olympic games boycott.
Earlier this week, Star Trek's George Takei posted a blog denouncing Russia's "cynical and deplorable actions" against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
With stars and activists bringing global attention to the issue, Russia has blasted into a major controversy, which is challenging Olympic leaders the way in a way similar to the protests over Tibet and human rights before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and former Olympic athletes such as Greg Louganis have also voiced their opposition of the law, which "prohibits the spread of propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
Violators of the law will face fines and up to 15 days in prison. "Hefty" fines will be given to anyone who holds a gay right rally and foreigners can face deportation.
Gay rights campaigners have likened the legislation to the horrors to Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jewish people to the apartheid in South Africa, CNN reports.
Protests have ranged from not serving Russian vodka in bars to calls for a boycott of the Olympic games.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain will not boycott the Olympics, Reuters reports.
In response to an open letter from comedian Stephen Fry, in which he called a boycott of the games "simply essential," Cameron wrote:
"I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia. However, I believe we can better handle prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics."
President Obama has also ruled out a boycott. Both he and Cameron feel that it would only hurt the athletes who have trained so hard to compete, The Associated Press reports.
In 1980, the United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics and in 1984, the Soviet Union boycott the Olympics in Los Angeles. Both of these moves have been widely regarded as failures.
"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," President Obama said Friday. "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker."
Meanwhile, the IOC is under pressure to take a stronger stance and demand Russia's respect for the Olympic Charter's rules on discrimination.
One IOC member has even suggested taking the games away from Russia if this issue can't be resolved.
"They have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to goodbye to them," Norway's Gerhard Heiberg told The Associated Press in an interview.
Heiberg, who organized the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer and chairs the marketing commission, said the IOC needs to stay out of domestic Russian politics, but must remain firm on what happens during the Olympic games in Sochi.
"This is a very important principle and we have to stick to that," Heiberg said. "We cannot start giving in. Let's wait and see. Either they accept or maybe we go somewhere else if worse comes to worse. I don't think it will come to that."
Despite Putin's refusal to backdown and retract the law, the IOC has been engaged in what has been described as "quite diplomacy" with Russian leaders to ensure the law will not affect the games.
Russia is also set to host the 2018 World Cup.
"Russia must understand that the stronger we are, the more other people aren't going to like it," Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said. "We have a unique country."
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