Madonna turns down gay activist calls to boycott Russian city
Madonna turned down calls to boycott St. Petersburg after the Russian city passed a law punishing people for promoting homosexuality to youth, saying she would instead use her August concert there to speak out.
“I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” the pop star said on her Facebook page Wednesday. "I don't run away from adversity."
Russian journalist Masha Gessen had urged Madonna to steer clear of the Russian city in a blog post for the International Herald Tribune. Gay activists in Russia were unswayed by the pop star, telling Agence France-Presse that they would protest "the hypocrisy of pop stars" at her show.
Russian media reported that the new law imposes fines of up to roughly $170 for individuals, $1,700 for officials and $17,000 for legal entities for advocating homosexuality to minors. It makes it illegal to foster "the false perception that traditional and nontraditional relationships are socially equal" among youth.
"The legislation makes it illegal to argue against it: A lawmaker who dared say that same-sex relationships are not inferior to heterosexual ones could be fined," Gessen wrote Monday.
Human Rights Watch criticized the law as so vague that it "could lead to a ban on displaying a rainbow flag or wearing a T-shirt with a gay-friendly logo or even on holding LGBT-themed rallies in the city."
Vitaly Milonov, who wrote the bill, said it would not be used against the media or to stop gay pride parades, and was meant to "outline certain additional rules of behavior toward minors" It would only affect "children's environments," Milonov told the St. Petersburg Times.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality nearly two decades ago, but bias against gays has continued, including routinely banning or breaking up gay protests, Human Rights Watch said.
Madonna has run into problems in Russia before -- though not from the gay community, which she has championed worldwide. Russian Orthodox activists protested her first show there six years ago, upset with her singing “Live to Tell” while wearing a crown of thorns and dangling from a cross, Bloomberg reports.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Madonna. Credit: Chris Jackson / Getty Images