Russian Branches of Hollywood Studios Keeping Low Profile Amid Anti-Gay Law Controversy

Vladimir Putin

Moscow-based offices remain mum as human rights activists call on the entertainment industry for help.

MOSCOW -- The Russian offices of major Hollywood studios are staying mum amid the growing international controversy over the Kremlin's new anti-gay laws.

When approached for comment Friday, the studios' Moscow offices either did not respond or specifically distanced themselves from the issue.

International condemnation of new laws forbidding the promotion of gay, lesbian or bisexual lifestyles and other measures has been growing in intensity recently.

On Thursday, the U.S. Human Rights Commission president, Chad Griffin, wrote to the presidents of Fox, Paramount, Disney, Sony, Universal, Warner Bros. and the MPAA, urging them to use premieres of studio movies in Russia to "make clear and visible statements" in support of Russia's LGBT community and against the new laws.

The letter urged studio chiefs to meet with Russian leaders to demand the laws be repealed. Several days earlier, Griffin called upon NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke, imploring him to expose Russia's new policies "to the millions of American viewers who will tune in to watch the [Winter Olympic] Games [in Sochi]."

But representative offices of the majors were at pains to distance themselves from the issue on Friday.

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A spokeswoman for Disney told The Hollywood Reporter: "Obviously we steer clear of that very sensitive subject; the corporate line is we steer clear. We are not commenting, and that is the official position."

At Central Partnership, Russia's leading independent production and distribution shingle that works in strategic partnership with Paramount, a spokeswoman said: "It does not affect our business, and we are not commenting on such matters."

The wave of international condemnation concerns three new laws passed within the last two months that bring pressure on Russia's gay citizens -- unprecedented since Stalinist times.

In June, President Vladimir Putin signed a law classifying "homosexual propaganda" as pornography. Its broad and vague terms make it illegal to promote a gay lifestyle to minors.

The next law, introduced just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics, permits police to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or "pro-gay" and detain them for up to 14 days. Although the International Olympic Committee says it has had assurances the law won't be used during the Sochi games, on Thursday Vitally Mutko, Russia's sports minister, stated the law would be exercised during next February's Olympics.

"No one is forbidding a sportsperson with nontraditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi. But if they go onto the street and start propagandizing it, then of course they will be held accountable," Mutko told Russian agency R-Sport during a visit to Barcelona.

On July 3, another law banned the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.