News » International

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

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Sunday Aug 12, 2012

Madonna has long stood by the side of the gay community. The Material Girl once again proved her gay bona fides when she said she would publicly condemn a local law making the propagation of "homosexual propaganda" when she played St. Petersburg, Russia. She made the announcement a few days before her twelfth studio album "MNDA" dropped, on March 23.

"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 singer told Bloomberg Businessweek. "I don’t run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."

The controversial measure was approved by the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg and was signed into law by the city’s governor, Georgiy Poltavchenko. It went into effect on March 30 and immediately had a chilling effect on the city’s LGBT citizens.

The law fines individuals up to $17,000 for "promoting homosexuality" and "pedophilia" among minors. Anyone who violates the law faces jail time.

The law defines "homosexual propaganda" as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," that could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations." Critics -- and there are many, within the gay community and elsewhere -- claim the law is purposefully vague; does not specifically define what is considered "propaganda"; and doesn’t explain how pedophilia is equivalent to homosexuality.

Russia’s second largest and most European-oriented city is the fourth district in Russia to pass such a "homosexual propaganda" law. Lawmakers from the districts of Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma have also created similar measures.

Vague for a Reason

Dina Gusovsky, an international politics columnist and former Russia Today reporter, told EDGE that the law’s ambiguity benefits the government.

"The vagueness of it makes it all the easier for law enforcement to go after individuals they think have violated a law that has such a wide interpretation," she said.

The law does not explain what specific acts of homosexuality could get someone arrested or fined. Someone could violate the law by simply waving a rainbow flag or for participating in a LGBT rally. Gusovsky notes that over 70 people have been arrested under the law and one person has been charged with pedophilia while the rest were charged with spreading "gay propaganda."

Many of the people arrested and fined were activists and protesters. EDGEreported in May that 17 gay activists were arrested under the controversial law for participating in a May Day celebration.

Nikolai Alexeyev, a well-known gay rights activist in Russia, was also arrested under the law in May and told the Associated Press that a city court fined him 5,000 rubles ($170) for violating the measure. According to Yuri Gavrikov, the head of St. Petersburg’s LGBT group Equality, there were no children around where Alexeyev was protesting. Gavrikoy called the law vague as well.

Additionally, EDGE reported that a Russian straight man named Sergey Kondrashov was arrested under the law but became the first citizen to be cleared of "homosexual propaganda" charges. Kondrashov was put behind bars for holding up a gay rights banner in St. Petersburg that read, "A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her...and her family is just as equal as ours."

St. Petersburg lawmakers who supported the measure claimed it would protect minors from pedophilia. But many question whether the welfare of children was really paramount in legislators’ minds.

Rachel Denber, deputy director of Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch, told EDGE she believes there is something more sinister behind the measure.

"I think it’s the government setting boundaries for LGBT people. They want to silence organizations so they back off equal rights and pride parades," she said. "The law’s rhetoric is protecting children." Denber also said it is possible the law would have been passed even if without the supposed goal of protecting minors.


  • 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!!!

Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook