Popstar Madonna has vowed that during the Russian leg of her MDNA tour she will use a visit to St Petersburg to speak up for the gay community after the region passed a “Don’t Say Gay” censorship law.
“I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” the pop star said by e-mail late yesterday. “I’m a freedom fighter.”
“I don’t run away from adversity,” Madonna, who has used her fame to support gay rights, said in the e-mail. “I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity.”
St Petersburg recently passed a law banning the promotion or affirmation of LGBT identity in public, supposedly under the guise of protecting minors. The law serves to virtually ban gay pride events.
For breaking this law there is a fine of 5,000 rubles ($170) for individuals, and for officials 50,000 rubles ($1,725). The fine for legal entities is 500,000 rubles ($17,250).
St. Petersburg Governor Gregory Poltavchenko signed the bill into law earlier this month.
Now, Russian Orthodox Church officials have begun lobbying for the government to adopt a nationwide ban on the promotion of gay rights.
Meanwhile the European Union has adopted a resolution “strongly” condemning the law, and LGBT rights groups within the country have since written to foreign authorities asking them to impose travel bans on Russian lawmakers that supported St Petersburg’s newly passed gay gag rule.
Madonna’s advocacy may come as no surprise as she has a long history of supporting the gay community and also has a history when it comes to Russia too.
Madonna’s first show in Russia six years ago was marred by protests of Russian Orthodox activists who objected to her performance of the song “Live to Tell,” which she sang while wearing a crown of thorns and dangling from a cross.
During the singer’s second visit in 2009 on the Sticky and Sweet tour, a Communist group urged her to sing a revolutionary anthem like the Marseillaise as she performed near the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, which was stormed by the Bolsheviks in 1917. The palace now houses the Hermitage Museum.
The American pop star’s financial interests in Russia extend beyond show business. She opened a Hard Candy upscale fitness centre in Moscow last year, a 3,250 square-metre facility less than 600 meters from the Kremlin. This was the second Madonna-themed gym in the world, after Mexico City. She plans to open a third in St Petersburg, Europe’s fourth-largest city.
Madonna has previously spoken out on a number of gay rights issues including in the case of a Malwai man and trans woman who were jailed for their relationship.