Madonna pledges to speak up for gay rights


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The Independent Online

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised yesterday to speak out against a new law prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" in St Petersburg.

The law, which has been passed by the local parliament in St Petersburg as well as in a number of other Russian regions, equates homosexuality with paedophilia and envisages punishment for anyone "promoting" either to minors.

Madonna is due to perform in St Petersburg in August, and gay rights activists had called on her to cancel her Russian shows in protest at the new law. Yesterday, however, she posted on Facebook that she would go through with the concert in the city, and another in Moscow, but would make the law a central part of the performance.

"I'm a freedom fighter," wrote the pop singer on her Facebook page. "I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community, to support the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed." She defended her decision not to cancel the shows and said that it would send a stronger message if she went ahead but spoke out against the laws from the stage.

Gay rights groups in Russia were not impressed and said they would picket the concerts, protesting against the "hypocrisy" of Western artists who claimed to stand up for gay rights but were happy to make huge profits from playing concerts in Russia.

"If Madonna or one of the organisers of the concert breaks the city law, they will be punished," Vitaly Milonov, local MP and author of the bill outlawing gay propaganda, told Interfax.