A member of the European Parliament and well-known gay rights activist cut his Visa credit card during a session of parliament in protest of the corporation’s sponsorship of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
“The discrimination, violence and human rights attack by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin are entirely unacceptable. Attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people are equally unacceptable,” Michael Cashman, a British Labour MEP representing the English region of the West Midlands, said. “I trust the athletes to speak out in Sochi, but I condemn sponsors like McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Visa for their continued support of the Games. I will boycott the sponsors, starting now, with Visa. Madame President, not in my name!” He then proceeded to pull out of his pocket a Visa Inc. (NYSE:V) card and a pair of scissors, cutting it in half.
In June, Putin signed into law a bill limiting the rights of LGBT people in Russia.
Leaders from the U.S., England, France and other major Western nations, where indignation has run high following the passage of he law, will not attend the opening ceremony. Among the European Union heads of state and government, only Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and King Willem Alexander are attending.
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On Friday, the day of the opening ceremony of the games, Google ran an Olympic-themed Google doodle on all of its homepages, which can easily be identifiable as the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay pride.
With the doodle, Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) joins the ranks of companies and activists speaking out against anti-gay laws in Russia. Official Olympic sponsors AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T), Chobani and DeVry University, a unit of DeVry Education Group Inc. (NYSE:DV), issued statements Thursday against the anti-gay law passed last year.
Putin has defended the "anti-propaganda" law, saying it is not designed to attack homosexuals but rather to protect children -- a defense that only enraged opponents of the law more, as it implies homosexuality is dangerous to children.
Google also quotes below the doodle a part of the Olympic charter: "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
In an indirect message to Putin, President Barack Obama in December named Billie Jean King, a tennis star who is a lesbian, as one of the two Sochi U.S. delegates, to represent “the diversity that is the United States,” a White House spokesman said.