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).