Page 2 of 2 Previous
Damon and other celebrities are donning T-shirts emblazoned, in Russian, "Love Conquers Hate" and posting selfies online as part of HRC's fundraising for a Russian support fund. The first donation was $100,000, with a second expected soon, Cobb said.
(By comparison, a Los Angeles dinner for the Family Equality Council, which supports U.S. gay and lesbian parents and their children, brought in more than $500,000 from Hollywood figures and others.)
Black and "Milk" producer Bruce Cohen, along with singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, started the "Uprising of Love" campaign to raise funds and awareness. They heard firsthand about gay repression in Russia, which in 2013 adopted legislation barring distribution of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors.
Black and Cohen accepted an invitation to screen "Milk" at a St. Petersburg film festival last year, traveling there with director Gus Van Sant. A bomb threat was received that night, Cohen said.
"The thing to do is to go to Russia and support people on the ground who need help there. Bruce and I put our bodies where our mouths were and went," despite fears of being a lawbreaker, Black says. "It was scary going there with a rainbow flag in my luggage."
GEORGE TAKEI, MR. SULU of "Star Trek" fame and a vocal defender of gay rights, appreciates such calls to action but is skeptical about their effectiveness. Takei wanted to see the games stripped from Sochi in protest and relocated to their 2010 Vancouver site.
"We are going against the massive might of a dictatorial nation. (President Vladimir) Putin just a few weeks ago made the statement that there would be no discrimination, but gays and lesbians should stay away from children," says Takei, anger in his voice.
He blames what he called the "spineless" International Olympic Committee for providing a global platform for Russia that he compares to the one exploited by Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Games.
But producer Cohen acknowledges there are limits to how far — and how effectively — celebrity can travel in this case.
"Americans coming in and telling them what to do really doesn't play in Russia," he says, especially since there are indications the anti-gay law has hardened Russian attitudes on the issue. He sees it as crucial that gay Russians and allies go public.
"One of the things we're hoping is that all the celebrities involved eventually will be able to give cover and courage for Russian citizens to speak out," Cohen says.
Even the biggest stars may not dent the relentless extravaganza that the games have become, said Robert Thompson, director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.
"In the end, the Olympics as an institution trumps everything else," Thompson says. Consider the opening ceremony with its flying horse, video imagery and other dazzling effects.
"Your little squeaky voice saying, 'Hey, what about gay rights' is trampled by flying horses," Thompson says.
The battle doesn't end with Sochi, Cohen says. He notes the upcoming Russian Open Games to promote sports and health for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and supporters. They begin Feb. 26 in Moscow, far removed from Sochi and the blanket international coverage enjoyed by the Winter Games.
The Open Games website carries a warning in accordance with Russian law: "The information on this site is intended only for the use of those aged 18 and over."
"In a way, it's even more important to us than the Olympics, an LGBT event being held in Moscow, and we're working to make sure they get the support they need," Cohen says. "That will be a real clear example of what the future will hold in store."