A lawsuit brought against pop mega star Madonna for her allegedly promoting homosexuality during a Russian concert has been laughed out of court.
Claimants, who wanted $10.7 million in compensation, alleged that at Madonna’s August 9 concert, Madonna knowingly flouted St. Petersburg’s ban on promoting homosexuality by rallying the crowd to stand strong with Russia’s gay citizens.
Last week, a St. Petersburg court was shown footage from the concert which members of the group Trade Union Russia said showed Madonna knowingly flouting the rule when she told the crowd, “I am here to say that the gay community and gay people here and all around the world have the same rights – to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love.”
Madonna had also provided pink wristbands for concert-goers to wear to show solidarity for Russia’s gay population.
Claimants also made some quite outlandish claims as to why Madonna’s advocacy had so deeply injured them and why they deserved $10.7 million in damages. They argued that, while they were also personally harmed, Madonna’s performance had harmed all of Russia by encouraging homosexuality and therefore damaging Russia’s birthrate. They said, as a result of this, Russia might now not be able to muster a strong army.
The interest the case had provoked meant proceedings were frequently interrupted. In fact, RiaNovosti reports the hearing at one point devolved into a “circus”:
It was an open trial, but the courtroom was too small for all the journalists and onlookers who wanted to get in. The scenes in the courtroom resembled a slapstick comedy. The judges spent a lot of time scrutinizing a photo of two men kissing, taken at the concert. Referring to a Wikipedia article on the LGBT movement, prosecuting lawyer Alexander Pochuyev claimed the show contained numerous emblems of sexual minorities. Moreover, given that there were children present in the audience, the singer bared too much flesh. The exact proof of Madonna’s support for the gay community remains unclear.
Luckily, common sense prevailed. Judge Barkovsky smiled and suggested that it was Navy Day and this was just two former shipmates happy to see one another.
Judge Vitaly Barkovsky was ultimately unconvinced by the claimants’ assertions. Without issuing reasons for finding against claimants, the court ordered claimants to pay the event organizers compensation to the amount of their legal fees.
As Care2 noted when this case was filed, while St Petersburg’s homosexuality propaganda ban was originally incredibly wide ranging, a superior court clarified that the law could only apply in instances where minors could have been directly affected by the activity in question. Given that Madonna’s tour organizers had specifically promoted the concert as an adults-only event, it could be reasonably established that Madonna’s promotion of gay equality was meant only for adult ears.
Madonna did not appear in the tiny St Petersburg courtroom, having ignored repeated requests that she attend.
The anti-gay activists said that they will appeal this ruling.
“Our position is the same. We believe there was a case of the breach of law, namely gay propaganda among minors,” activist Darya Dedova is quoted as saying.
Another from the group is quoted as saying they nevertheless believe their legal action against Madonna will have sent a clear message: ”St Petersburg’s laws were brutally violated. In the coming years, this type of violation could become the norm. But we have created a precedent – any artist coming to our city will know now what laws exist.”
This case was seen as an important test as to whether the Russian judiciary would allow such zealous claims based on the propaganda law or whether they would behave in a more cautious manner. The St Petersburg law, one among several in Russia, has been condemned by international human rights groups who have grown deeply concerned by Russia’s slide toward intrusive religious conservative censorship.
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