Madonna came out of the closet in St. Petersburg, Russia, a few days ago.
In a courtroom that reporters present described as being the size of a walk-in closet (photos), Madge was summoned to face charges of inciting the decent citizens of Russia to homosexuality. If convicted, she faced a $170 fine and a claim for moral damages in excess of $10 million by the group of plaintiffs who had sued her. She declined to make a personal appearance, and was tried in absentia over the course of a single day.
There was no jury. The lone judge hearing the matter, one Vitaly Barkovsky, listened to testimony for about five hours, deliberated for an hour and a half, and then acquitted Ms. Ciccone on all counts.
The charges stemmed from a Madonna concert staged in Piter, as the locals call their city, earlier this year. She urged her listeners, many of whom sported LGBT paraphernalia like pink wristbands or rainbow insignias, to stand up for gay rights, notoriously under siege in today’s Russia. She exhorted: “Show your love and appreciation to the gay community.”
Such statements can amount to criminal acts in today’s Russia. Piter is supposedly Russia’s most liberal city, but like many others it has a law on the books forbidding anyone to encourage or support homosexuality. The author of the law, Vitaly Milonov, had put Madonna on notice before the show, stating ominously:
I heard at the concerts on this tour she pulled off her tights, and we will not have that here. We warn the organizers of the concert so that everything goes well. Otherwise they will face the harsh laws of St. Petersburg.
Reviewing the account of the trial offers many insights into what passes for justice in the Russia of proud KGB spy Vladimir Putin.
As the trial began, it was totally unclear whether Madonna had been given proper legal notice of the lawsuit. The first of the plaintiffs began his attempt to prove Madonna’s violation of Russian law by quoting extensively from the Holy Bible. He then asserted that the support of rights for homosexuals amounted to a violation of basic human rights (i.e., because homosexuals are not humans).
Less than an hour into the proceedings, a reporter tweeted the following, describing Milonov: “He’s breathing really heavily now, which is fair. Our fun-sized courtroom is about to run out of oxygen.” Near the end of the proceedings, he stated: “Just about everyone in our cute little courtroom is soaked with sweat. The judge warns the journalists asking them to stop sniggering.” Climate control being a somewhat foreign concept in Russia, particularly in government buildings.
In short order, with no evidence whatsoever in support, Madonna was accused of threatening Russia’s social order by undermining its childbearing and fueling its divorce rate (i.e., encouraging heterosexual marriages to break up in favor of homosexual experimentation). After that, all of Western civilization was condemned, with the attorney for the plaintiffs stating that the whole notion of gender had been destroyed in the places where Madonna is permitted to express herself freely.
One of the plaintiffs, visibly pregnant, condemned Madonna for advocating tolerance of homosexuality which is an “alien” value in Russia. Another expressed shock and horror because her younger brother had accidentally seen a video clip of the concert on a social network website.
Towards the end, a page from Wikipedia was admitted as evidence defining the nature of the LGBT community. Then evidence of Madonna supporting the gay community in public appearances having nothing whatsoever to do with Russia was admitted. A little later, it was revealed that the plaintiff attorney was a leading figure in a political group advocating that the Russia city of Volgograd be renamed to honor Josef Stalin, whom she greatly admires.
And so it went. Had the defendant been a little less famous and a little more Russian, and had the plaintiffs been a little less psychotic and abrasive, a backbreaking conviction might well have emanated from this “courtroom.” And even if you think like the Russians do and believe homosexuals should be pilloried and subjugated, make no mistake: The law in question is only one example of many similar provisions in Russia designed to crush and liquidate all forms of dissent and dissonance and recreate a homogenous neo-Soviet dictatorship.
Madonna didn’t get convicted, but she did get tried. With no apparent legal basis, a proceeding was convened that could have imposed massive liability upon her and even led to a gruesome criminal investigation. If that can happen to someone like Madonna, just imagine what can happen to an ordinary Russian, and imagine how that Russian will think twice before doing anything that might perturb the Kremlin regime that looms over him like an impenetrably black cloud.
If homosexuality is illegal in Putin’s Russia today, what will be illegal tomorrow?
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