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Human Rights Groups Urge Visa To Speak Against Russia’s Anti-Gay Law

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday Aug 22, 2013
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Two human rights groups are urging Visa officials to speak out against Russia’s highly controversial anti-gay law, as the credit card company is one of the 10 marquee sponsors of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, BuzzFeed reports.

Courage Campaign and Democracy of America, which have a combined total of 1.75 million members, have launched a petition for Visa to "step out from behind" the International Olympic Committee and voice their support for the LGBT community and condemn Russia’s "homosexual propaganda" law, according to a statement released on Thursday.

In the statement, the groups mentioned comments made by an official from General Electric, who told BuzzFeed that the company expects the IOC "to uphold human rights in every aspect of the Games." The statement says the groups hopes Visa has the same sentiments.

Last week, Visa gave a statement to BuzzFeed, saying, "As an Olympic TOP Partner, we believe in the spirit of the Games and its unique ability to unite the world in a way that is positive and inspirational. We are engaged with the IOC on this important topic and support its recent statement that sport is a human right and the Games should be open to all, spectators, officials, media, and athletes, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation."

Visa officials declined to discuss more on the issue.

Members of Courage Campaign and Democracy for America pointed out the credit card company’s past support for the LGBT community, including offering the Rainbow Platinum Plus Card, which funds grants for LGBT communities around the world.

"This is an opportunity for Visa to prove that they are a real ally of the LGBT community, not a fair-weather friend merely willing to pay lip service to LGBT rights when it aids the bottom line," said Jim Dean, chair of Democracy for America. "As a major sponsor of the Olympics, until it vocally rejects the rulings, Visa’s silence can and should be seen as approval of the International Olympic Committee’s feckless support of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws."

Though the IOC says Russia’s anti-gay law will not impact fans and athletes, Russian officials have made it clear they will enforce the measure during the 2014 Olympics. BuzzFeed said they’ve reached out to the 10 Olympic marquee sponsors last week about Russia’s anti-LGBT views.

"Most companies, like Visa, have been deferring to the IOC and backing the committee’s position that the legislation won’t affect visitors," BuzzFeed writes.

Last week, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, which are also marquee sponsors, released statements condemning the measure but say that the Games should still be held in Sochi.

"There’s no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches. McDonald’s welcomes 69 million customers around the world every day representing different races, nationalities, religions, genders, ages and sexual orientations," a McDonald’s spokesperson said. "McDonald’s supports the spirit of the Olympic Games and its ability to unite the world in a positive and inspirational way. We’ve been a proud sponsor of the Games for 37 years.

"Regarding the recent Russian legislation, we support the International Olympic Committee’s belief that sport is a human right and the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes," the statement concludes.

Coca-Cola spokeswoman, Kate Harman, echoed McDonald’s statements in an email to BuzzFeed.

"We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices... We do not condone human rights abuses, intolerance, or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world," she said. "As a sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every community that has been a host."

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