Elton John took the opportunity at his concert in Moscow this week to speak out against Russia's anti-gay discrimination. The BBC reports that the singer interrupted his performance on Friday to say that he was "sad to learn" of the country's new law that bans "homosexual propaganda." "In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating," John said.
John is the first major Western performer known for his gay rights support to tour in Russia since Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law last June, according to the BBC. Earlier this fall, John's plans to perform there were met with protests by anti-gay activists. The Guardian reported that a group called the Ural Parents Committee wrote a letter to Putin asking him to ban John from performing, and the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods circulated a petition with a similar demand. "The statement by this gay guy – Elton John – about his support for gays and other perverts during the upcoming concert … is an insult to all Russian citizens," the Union's leader, Yuri Ageshchev, was quoted saying to a local news agency. "It also makes a mockery of our recently enacted law against the public propaganda of gay ideas."
John told NPR's Fresh Air that he felt an obligation to go through with the concerts. "There are a lot of great Russian people out there who are outraged by what's going on, I don't want to abandon them," he said. "Now, I'll probably get criticized for going, and I can understand that. It's just that I, as a gay man and a gay musician, cannot stay at home and not support these people who have been to lots of my concerts in the past."
John dedicated Friday night's show to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old man who was reportedly tortured and murdered in Volgograd last spring because he was gay.
Last month, a Russian court fined the promoter of a Lady Gaga concert that took place a year ago for "propaganda of alcohol consumption and homosexuality." Madonna was also hit with a $10.5 million lawsuit in August 2012 by a group of activists objecting to the "moral damage" inflicted by the singer for voicing support for the local LGBT community during her concert in St. Petersburg.
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