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Madonna’s St. Petersburg Concert Reignites Criticism of Anti-Gay Law

(Continued from Page 1)
by Jason St. Amand

’Protecting Children’ As an Anti-Gay Weapon

"I’m sorry to say this," Denber said, "but instead of authorities leading citizens towards tolerant attitudes and to a greater openness for LGBT people, they are trying to bait people with what could be someone’s prejudices."

Lawmakers emphasized pedophilia because the topic of homosexuality is still taboo in Russia, Gusovsky added. "They don’t want to create a perception that this is normal," she told EDGE. "They think it’s a lifestyle that goes against nature and they do not want young people to be attracted to it."

Vitaly Milonov, the law’s principal drafter and an outspoken supporter of Russia’s Orthodox Church, has called gay people "perverts" and has accused gay rights activists of launching a campaign to convert Russia’s children. "This is a declaration of Russia’s moral sovereignty," Milonov said in a quote as reported in the New York Times.

On the other side, the head of the Russian L.G.B.T. Network, Igor Kochetkov, called the law "absurd. You can also adopt a law against turning off the light of the sun, but no one has the ability to do this," Kochetkov told the Times. "Even if someone wanted to, no amount of propaganda is going to turn a heterosexual gay. This is a law that can be used, and will be used, to conduct searches of organizations and prevent public actions."

’Sliding Towards a New Totalitarianism’

Activists in ComingOut, the leading St. Petersburg LGBT rights group, warned that "this law would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia. The history of Europe shows that all totalitarian regimes here began with similar repression of LGBT people."

The law, he ominously added, "could signal that Russia is sliding towards a new totalitarianism."

Since the fall of the old Soviet Union, Russia has passed several laws that are a step backward, Gusovsky added.

"The law does not just limit LGBT people but really all those who support the community," she said. "There was someone holding up a sign that said his family friend is a lesbian and that they treat her the same and that she is equal to them. Under the law, that would not be considered acceptable, either."

The real goal is to "put people back into the closet," according to Denber. "That to me is the message that these initiatives are implementing," she said.

Urging a Boycott of St. Petersburg

In order to have the law repealed, some gay rights groups and activists, including All Out, have urged people to avoid traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia’s most popular tourist destination.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Masha Gessen asked for tourists to cancel any vacation plans to the city. Gessen called for major businesses to pull out of any deals they have with the metropolis and for Madonna to cancel her concert.

For her part, Denber is hopeful that ordinary Russians will try to get the measure repealed. "People are pressing the limits," she said.

People will fight back. They are pushing boundaries and challenging authorities on ridiculous laws, many people are upset."

Not so fast, Gusovsky countered.

"I don’t see it happening anytime soon, if at all," she said. "In fact I see other cities adopting the measure. Repeal would be very difficult and could probably only come about with a change in leadership."


  • BOB KELLERMAN, 2012-08-12 01:50:01

    pick her to death if you want but she has been a friend for 30 years....

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-12 16:29:45

    Not the best idea getting these people all worked into a frenzy and then being wisked home to safety while they’re being arrested, imprisoned and fined.

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-13 09:42:31

    Thanks Madge! MK

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-13 09:49:26

    Re Oh Jed’s comments: I agree that it’s important to be cautious in dangerous places. But we should give these people some credit, right? I mean, they live there: They know better than we do (assuming you don’t live there) what’s safe and what’s not. I think it’s great they got some inspiration here. Would you prefer that Madonna tell them to be careful about the anti-gay laws? Don’t they get enough fear from other sources there? Their government and culture constantly pressures them to shut up. The fact that Madonna urges them to celebrate and be fearless isn’t going to make them stupid, but it gives them some much-needed public support in a hostile environment. - Mike (More thoughts at )

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-13 11:06:51

    [Mike] Your point is well taken and I agree with most of it, but I also remember when I was the Madonna concert age with the young, invincible mentality. I don’t remember how many times I said "it seemed like a good idea at the time". When you’re dealing with a hinky and undoubtedly corrupt government, who purposely uses vagueness in creating laws, its an entirely different ball game... It frightens me to think what a government such as this would stoop to in keeping their pockets lined and control intact. I guess we’ll see how this plays out. It’s sad to see our brothers and sisters being treated like this and much, much worse.

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-13 13:35:17

    Oh Jed - Your points are well taken too. The government certainly does use vagueness in these laws to its advantage in scary ways. I agree that it’s sad (and scary and frustrating) to see how poorly people can be treated for no good reason at all. Mike

  • Anonymous, 2012-08-16 09:58:06

    What did you expect in a country run by an ex-KGB executive... Russia joins Iran, Saudi Arabia and others in intolerance, hatred and "religious-bigotry" When churches and religions are no longer allowed to make civil laws, the GLBT community will be closer to safety and equal rights!!!

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