Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen

Twenty seven of the world’s most brilliant minds have spoken out against Russia’s gay propaganda law in a letter to President Vladimir Putin.

The open letter was written by scientist Sir Harry Kroto and acclaimed actor and LGBT activist Sir Ian McKellen (The Hobbit) and was signed by 27 Nobel Prize winners who have changed the world in some way, including South African born novelist JM Coetzee.

McKellen, who is openly gay, revealed that he had turned down invitations to attend Russian film festivals because he had been warned by the UK Foreign Office that he could not speak openly about his sexuality in the country.

Published on Monday by The Independent, the letter states that it was written “to indicate that many senior members of the international scientific community show solidarity with politicians, artists, sports people and many others who have already expressed their abhorrence for the Russian government’s actions against its gay citizens.”

It adds: “Protest is never easy but we hope that by expressing opposition to the new legislation it might be possible to encourage the Russian state to embrace the 21st century humanitarian, political and inclusive democratic principles which Mikhail Gorbachev worked so hard to achieve.”

President Putin approved the ban on the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” in June last year. The law, which has been widely condemned, bars the open expression or discussion of homosexuality across Russia and had been used to ban Pride events.

The signatories to the letter are:

Harold Kroto (Nobel Chemistry 1996), Ian McKellen (aka Henry V/Gandalf), Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace 1976), Eric Cornell (Nobel Physics 2001), Sheldon Glashow (Nobel Physics 1979), Brian Josephson (Nobel Physics 1973), Martin Perl (Nobel Physics 1995), Roald Hoffmann (Chemistry 1981), Gerhard Ertl (Chemistry 2007), Susumu Tonegawa (Physiology/Medicine 1987), Tony Leggett (Nobel Physics 2003), Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Chemistry 1986), Paul Nurse (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 2001), Robert Curl (Nobel Chemistry 1996), Martin Chalfie (Nobel Chemistry 2008), Richard Roberts (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 1993), John Polanyi (Nobel Chemistry 1986), Edmond Fischer (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 1992), Timothy Hunt (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 2001), Jack Szostak (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 2009), John Coetzee (Nobel Literature 2003), Eric Wieschaus (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 1995), Leon Lederman (Nobel Physics 1988), Peter Agre (Nobel Chemistry 2003), John Sulston (Nobel Physiology/Medicine 2002), Herta Müller (Nobel Literature 2009), Brian Schmidt (Nobel Physics 2011), Thomas Steitz (Nobel Chemistry 2009).

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