Madonna performs on the MDNA opening night in Israel in May (Pic: Frank Micelotta)
Madonna has spoken out against homophobia during her St. Petersburg concert, despite threats to charge her for breaking a city law banning all gay and lesbian ‘propaganda’.
In March, assemblyman Vitaly Milanov, who was behind the recently-adopted law barring “the promotion of homosexuality” in Russia’s second largest city, threatened to charge her under the law when she performed there as part of her MDNA world tour.
Ahead of Thursday’s St. Petersburg concert, Madonna announced through social media that pink armbands would be handed out to audience members who wanted to show their support for the LGBT community.
During the concert, the Material Girl faced being arrested when she addressed the 25,000 audience members on the issue, warning of growing intolerance around the world.
“I’m here to say that the gay community and gay people here, and all around the world, have the same rights. The same right to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love,” said the star.
“Are you with me?” she asked, urging audience members, some holding rainbow flags, to raise their arms to display their pink armbands in order to show their “love and appreciation for the gay community”.
She went on to say: “And this is for people who are quoting the Bible and use God as their defence system… Jesus preached this, Mohammed preached this, Buddha preached this, Moses preached this. It’s in every holy book: ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’
“So you cannot use religion to treat other people badly. You cannot use God’s name to treat other people badly. We all deserve love,” Madonna said.
She urged the audience to “go out into the world and spread this message of love and live our life without fear”.
The concert saw Russian Orthodox Christians protesting on the streets against the singer, while conservative politicians promised to assess video footage of the show to see if Madonna should be charged.
St. Petersburg’s ‘The Promotion of Homosexuality, Lesbianism, and Transgenderism to Minors’ law bans any “public activities promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgender identity” in the city.
Numerous LGBT rights campaigners have been arrested under the law, simply for holding up placards with pro-gay messages or gay flags.
During an earlier concert in Moscow on Tuesday, Madonna called for the release of the three female members of the band Pussy Riot who are on trial for hooliganism because they insulted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think these girls … have done something courageous and they have paid the price for this act and I pray for their freedom. They deserve the right to be free,” said Madonna.