Madonna Transforms St. Petersburg Concert into Unofficial Gay Pride Rally

By Brett Edward Stout

Originally published on Advocate.com August 10 2012 1:50 PM ET

In a concert last night, Madonna blatantly defied a new gag law banning pro-LGBT speech in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Much buzz has circulated about Madonna’s concert in the city but not because of the sold-out show, the smash hit album, or even an exposed nipple. All the hype has been about the Material Girl’s intention to boldly and loudly defy the new anti-gay law prohibiting gay “propaganda.”

The Russian gay rights organization Coming Out’s director Polina Savchenko sent a public statement that read, “As promised, Madonna delivered a moving speech between ‘Open Your Heart’ and ‘Masterpiece’ in which she praised democracy, love, and freedom and compared the LGBT fights to Martin Luther King’s fights for equality. She added that gay people should be treated with love and dignity and that it was not right to use religion to promote hate to a certain group.”

Pink wristbands were also distributed to the audience.

Shortly after the law was passed, Madonna promised to speak out against the law during her St. Petersburg show. No one was sure if she would follow through, until the moment arrived and she stood her ground. “Show your love and appreciation to the gay community. We want to fight for the right to be free.  All people should be treated with dignity, respect, and love.” She stated with large black words, “No Fear” scrawled on the skin of her back. She then repeatedly asked the crowd, “Are you with me?” at which the crowd cheered holding their pink wristband clad arms and pride flags in the air.

But while the wristbands got the majority of the attention, other displays of support were also seeded throughout the event. Coming Out distributed hundreds of rainbow posters emblazoned with “No Fear” and during a video show for Madonna’s song “Nobody Knows Me,” scenes of same-sex kissing were played. At another point, her dancers held pride flags in the air, and later Madge did the same.

The U.S. Embassy had warned concertgoers and performers of credible threats of violence at the event. “The U.S. Consulate General in St. Petersburg has received information regarding a threat of physical violence against spectators and performers at the St. Petersburg concert on August 9. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow and the US Consulate General in St. Petersburg have shared the information with appropriate Russian law enforcement authorities…While we expect that enhanced security measures will be put in place at both concerts, US citizens are reminded to remain vigilant regarding their personal security, and to be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially in crowded areas.” No violence has yet been reported.

The legislator who authored the gay ban, St. Petersburg Assembly member Vitaly Milonov, vowed to take action himself if Madonna defied the ban. In a statement to the press he said, “If Madonna or one of the organizers of the concert breaks the city law, they will be punished.” So far, no one wearing the wristbands, Madonna, or any of the show organizers have been formally charged. However, Milonov says the concert was videotaped and since minors as young as 12 were present, the law prohibiting “homosexual propaganda” among minors has clearly been broken.

“Madonna or the organizers need to be brought to justice,” Milonov told Interfax. The news agency identified the organizers of the concert as the company Petersburg Music Industry, or PMI. The fine for violating the law is up to $17,000.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin took to Twitter to express his feelings on the matter, tweeting, “What a has-been... in their old age every former whore tries to lecture everyone on morality. Especially on overseas tours.”

But not all gay Russians were excited about the pop star’s efforts. LGBT protestors outside the venue also took a stance against Madonna in a single person picket where they took turns holding a sign that read “I do not care about Madonna and her support.”

But Coming Out’s Polina Savchenko added at the end of her Coming Out public statement the following positive message, “Madonna's support was extremely moving. Most of the mostly heterosexual crowd reacted positively to her message by raising pink wristbands that were distributed to everyone to support the LGBT community. The LGBT in the audience received Madonna’s support with both smiles and tears, and gratified her with the universal message ‘We love you’ at the end of the show.”

Watch video from Madonna's St. Petersburg concert below.