Russian Judge Dismisses Suit Against Madonna

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MOSCOW -- A Russian judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit against Madonna for actions during a concert in St. Petersburg in August that antigay groups say violated a local law against propagandizing homosexual behavior.

That the case even went to trial, though, was a new step for the courts under President Vladimir V. Putin, coming months after a court in Moscow sentenced members of a Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, to prison terms for staging a performance in an Orthodox cathedral.

Madonna did not face jail time, but she could have had to pay significant damages: the antigay groups suing her sought $10.7 million. Her spokeswoman has had no comment about the case.

At issue was a municipal law passed this year in St. Petersburg prohibiting advocating homosexuality among children. Other Russian cities have since passed similar laws, and the Parliament is considering a national one.

Before her tour, Madonna had vowed to speak out against the law. And during the concert, she stripped down to lacy black lingerie, revealing the words "No Fear" written on her back.

But she did not, at least obviously, flout the law as an act of civil disobedience. Tickets were sold only to those 18 and older.

"I'm here to say that the gay community, and gay people, here and all around the world, have the same rights," Madonna said in a short speech during a pause in the concert. "The same rights to be treated with dignity, with respect, with tolerance, with compassion, with love."

Judge Vitaly Barkovsky dismissed the lawsuit after questioning the plaintiffs about the arbitrary nature of the case, given that so much other contemporary entertainment contains positive references to homosexuality.

A spokeswoman for one antigay group, the Union of Russian Citizens, said its lawyers would appeal, the news Web site Fontanka.ru reported.

Since 1993, when Russia repealed a Soviet-era law, being gay is not illegal, and after 1999, homosexuality was no longer classified as a mental disorder. But official intolerance is common. A former mayor of Moscow, Yuri M. Luzhkov, described attempts to hold a gay pride parade in the capital as "satanic."

As the case was heard in St. Petersburg on Thursday, a member of Parliament from the Just Russia party said he had warned law enforcement officials about a concert by Lady Gaga, who will perform in St. Petersburg next month. He said that the concert should be limited to those older than 18, and that two songs should be excluded from the set: "Judas" and "Born This Way."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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