ST PETERSBURG, Russia — U.S. pop star Madonna on Thursday followed up on a promise she made in March to defy a Russian law that forbids speaking publicly about homosexuality, calling for tolerance for gays and lesbians at a concert.
“We all deserve love,” Madonna told about 25,000 people who turned out for her concert in St Petersburg.
As a sign of her solidarity with gay men and lesbians, she had pink armbands distributed in the crowd. She then complained about a “growing intolerance” in the world and called on the audience to raise their hands to show the armbands.
Madonna had announced in a Facebook posting soon after the law took affect that she would speak out in support of the gay community during her concert.
“I don’t run away from adversity,” she wrote. “I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity.”
The law, which took affect March 11, prohibits “homosexual propaganda.” Gay rights activists have criticized it, saying it criminalizes even reading, writing or speaking about gay, lesbian and transgender people.
Numerous Russian Orthodox Christians protested on the street prior to Madonna’s concert, calling out anti-gay slogans. Politicians and arch-conservatives said they would evaluate video recordings of Madonna’s show. A member of the Duma belonging to the ruling United Russia party had threatened prior to the concert to seek charges if the singer violated the law.
Madonna said she wanted to fight for the right to be free. She said in her travels around the world she has seen that people are becoming more and more intolerant, according to the Interfax news service.
“We can change this. We have the power,” she said.
Homosexuality has not been a crime in Russia since the 1990s, but the new law on “homosexual propaganda” has been adopted in many Russian cities and, according to experts even prevents AIDS education.
Earlier this week during her Moscow concert, Madonna expressed support for the punk rock band Pussy Riot. The three female members of the band are on trial for performing raucous songs insulting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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