It all started back in 2012 when Madonna was playing the Petersburgsky Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia. The singer had pink wristbands handed out at the doors and she asked members of the audience to wear them during the show as a sign of tolerance to the gay community.
After that show, a group of conservative activists filed a lawsuit against the singer, the venue and the promoter. They claimed they were insulted by the singer’s statements and pro-gay actions during the show and demanded 333 million rubles (around $10.7 million at the time) in compensation.
In November of that same year, The St. Petersburg’s Moskovsky district threw out the lawsuit without imposing a fine on the singer, the venue or the promoter.
Yevgeny Filkenshtein is the head of the PMI Group, an entertainment group that promoted the show. He released the following statement. “There was no gay propaganda during the show. Madonna just called on the audiences to be tolerant towards people of other sexual orientation and religious persuasions,” he says. “We protected Madonna from all that in any possible way and dealt with the lawsuit by ourselves. The court eventually sided with us and the artist, and no fine was imposed.”
Not happy with the results of the lawsuit, Vitaly Milonov, a conservative St. Petersburg legislator who supported the anti-gay propaganda law that was first introduced in the city and then nationwide throughout Russia, grasped at straws to try and get Madonna into some sort of legal trouble. He claimed the singer violated Russia’s tax and migration legislation by performing on the wrong type of visa. However, he was never able to provide evidence to back up this claim.
Madonna went public about the case on Monday posting video footage from the show on her Twitter and Instagram pages. In the video, she addresses the audience members, many of whom are waving a rainbow colored flag.
“I feel that people are becoming more and more afraid of people who are different,” Madonna says on the video. “People are becoming more and more intolerant. It’s a very scary time. But we can make a difference. We can change this. We have the power.”
“I am here to say that the gay community and gay people here and all around the world have the same rights -- to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love, she went on to say.
She captioned the video writing, “8 years ago. I was fined 1 million dollars by The government for supporting the Gay community. I never paid…..#freedomofspeech #powertothepeople #mdna
However, while there was a multi million dollar lawsuit filed, no one could prove that there had been a million dollar fine. Her claims inspired a good amount of surprise among the Russian media.
Russia has a history of being intolerant towards the gay community and the hostility has been on the rise in recent years. Madonna is hardly the first singer to speak out against their anti-LGBTQ stance. Lady Gaga and Elton John are other artists who have criticized the government for their treatment of gays. President Vladimir Putin responded by saying that Russia is “very neutral” towards the LGBTQ community.