Sochi: Oscar Winner Protesting Visa Over Russia's Anti-Gay Laws (Exclusive)

6:00 AM PST 01/30/2014 by Aaron Couch
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Stephen Schwartz

Composer Stephen Schwartz is urging people to ditch the Olympic sponsor, telling THR it should have spoken out against the policy: "I don't see any difference between what the Russians did in their laws and what Hitler did with his laws."

Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Stephen Schwartz has launched a campaign urging Visa customers to switch credit card companies, The Hollywood Reporter has learned exclusively. 

Schwartz is upset over Winter Olympics host country Russia's controversial anti-gay laws and says Visa and other Olympic sponsors should be speaking out against them. He chose to target Visa rather than other sponsors, such as Coca Cola or Proctor and Gamble, because he believes switching credit card companies is simpler than keeping track of the many products other companies make.

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"This is a no-brainer. People should not just stand still for this. I wasn't alive during the 1936 Hitler games, when Hitler was aggrandizing the Nazi party," Schwartz tells The Hollywood Reporter.  "I don't see any difference between what the Russians did with their laws and what Hitler did with his laws, other than they are targeting a different minority group."

Schwartz is launching a push with The Courage Campaign, asking people to pledge to switch from Visa if the company does not address concerns by Feb. 7, the start of the games.

Among potential resolutions, he would like to see the company sponsor public service announcements, to air during the games, which would support human rights in Russia during the Olympics.

"What I like about what I proposed is that it's a way of punishing the people who ought to be punished, but not affecting the athletes. That's why I would not support a boycott of the games or the athletes not going," he says. "They deserve their moment in the sun. They've worked hard for this all their lives."

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Visa did not respond to a request for comment.

Schwartz has three Oscars, for his work on Pocahontas and The Prince of Egypt, and four Grammys, for Godspell, Pocahontas and Wicked.

A number of other stars have spoken out against Russia's law, which criminalizes public expression of support for nontraditional relationships, including LGBT relationships. Chris Pine, Dustin Lance Black, Harvey Weinstein and Stephen Fry have also publicly criticized the law.

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