People have been buzzing over whether Madonna, a long-time LGBT rights ally (understatement?) and activist, would address the passage of a new law in St. Petersburg, Russia, that forbids the "promotion of homosexuality" by making discussion of the topic illegal in almost all instances and regardless of the context during her planned concert there in August. In an editorial, the New York Times encouraged Madonna to cancel the show entirely.
Well, she's not changing her concert plans, but she also doesn't plan to back down from the controversial legislation either.
"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," Madonna said in an email statement to Bloomberg. "I'm a freedom fighter."
The new rule, which is aimed at protecting minors from "the false perception that traditional and nontraditional relationships are socially equal," was signed into law on March 7 by St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko. Gay news blog Towleroad reports the law is far-reaching and essentially prohibits "participation in/organization of pride parades and gay rights protests, as well as the maintenance of a gay website, the donning of a gay pride pin, the sporting of a gay pride bumper sticker" and much more. The site also calls the legislation a "foggy, subjective law that can only be enforced selectively," meaning that without any explicit guidelines as to what constitutes "propaganda," law enforcement officials in socially conservative St. Petersburg essentially have free reign to bully LGBT citizens and allies under the broad umbrella of protecting the public from things they don't need to hear – you know, like how being gay is perfectly normal and how all people should be treated with equal respect.
The law has, understandably, drawn a great deal of criticism. "I don’t run away from adversity," Madonna told Bloomberg. "I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."
Madonna's latest video, for "Girl Gone Wild," is packed with homoerotic and gay imagery reminiscent of her Erotica-era. It'll be interesting to see exactly what she says when she brings the song to the stage in St. Petersburg. But don't forget, she can handle a few boos when she knows she's standing up for what's right. During an August 2009 stop in Bucharest, Romania, on her "Sticky & Sweet" tour she was jeered when she came to the defense of the country's Roma (gypsy) minority, who are widely and often violently discriminated against in much of eastern Europe.
"It has been brought to my attention that there is a lot of discrimination against Romanies and Gypsies in general in Eastern Europe. It made me feel very sad," Madonna told the 60,000 strong crowd to widespread boos. "We don’t believe in discrimination ... we believe in freedom and equal rights for everyone."
Let's hope she brings the same balls to whatever she has to say in Russia!