Russian Gay Rights Speech Case Against Madonna Dismissed

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com November 23 2012 11:27 AM ET

A St. Petersburg court Thursday dismissed charges against Madonna, who had been accused of violating a new law that bans the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” to minors when she spoke for gay rights during a concert in the Russian city this past August.

The pop star faced a $10.7 million lawsuit from nine plaintiffs representing a range of conservative groups with antigay views, known together as the Trade Union of Russian Citizens. Apart from the charges related to the propaganda law, Madonna also had been denounced by a senior official as a “moralizing slut” for expressing support for members of the feminist punk-rock collective, Pussy Riot.

Evidence against Madonna included Youtube footage and Facebook posts that attempted to prove she had advance knowledge of the consequences of breaking the law. The pop star did not attend the day-long hearing despite requests for her presence.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that scenes in the small courtroom “resembled a slapstick comedy, where “Madonna was blamed for all the country’s troubles, from low childbirth rates to the corruption in Russia’s Defense Ministry.” The prosecution showed a photo of two men kissing at the concert, referred to a Wikipedia article on the LGBT movement, and played a video clip of Madonna stomping on an Orthodox Christian cross.

“The judge in the case, Vitaly Barkovsky, deliberated for more than an hour before delivering his verdict, but appeared to treat the case with skepticism from the start. After one claimant, Vitaly Orlovsky, said Madonna's concert would prompt the divorce rate to skyrocket, Barkovsky asked him why he was suing no alcoholics, since alcoholism was a well-known cause of divorce in the heavy-drinking country,” reported the Guardian.

The case against Madonna was the highest profile test to date of the controversial “homosexual propaganda law.” Similar laws have been adopted in other regions of Russia and some lawmakers have proposed introducing a federal version.

Watch the video of Madonna's remarks from the St. Petersburg concert.