Complaints over Madonna's gay rights comments rejected by Russian court
A court in St Petersburg has ruled against the plaintiffs and members of various conservative groups who argued that Madonna's comments about gay rights violated a new law banning the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" to minors and would lead to the destruction of the nation.
The 54-year-old popstar was widely criticised in Russia this summer for voicing support for Pussy Riot during a Moscow concert and speaking out for gay rights during a performance in St Petersburg.
A senior official even called her a "moralising slut" for the former, and nine claimants brought a 10.7-million-dollar lawsuit against her for the latter.
Violation of the law is punishable by fines of up to 500,000 roubles (10,000 pounds).
During a day-long hearing, the court examined YouTube footage and was shown screenshots of Madonna's Facebook page as proof that the material girl was crazy for gay rights.
"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," the Guardian quoted Madonna as saying during the performance in August.
The claimants argued that the singer's performance would adversely affect Russia's birth-rate and therefore its ability to maintain a proper army.
They cited posts on the Facebook page condemning the law as proof she had prior knowledge of the potential criminality of expressing herself.
Madonna ignored repeated requests to attend the hearing, held in a tiny courtroom in Russia's second city.
"St Petersburg's laws were brutally violated," Marina Yakovlyeva, one of the claimants, told the court.
"In the coming years, this type of violation could become the norm. But we have created a precedent - any artist coming to our city will know now what laws exist," Yakovlyeva said.
The judge in the case, Vitaly Barkovsky, deliberated for more than an hour before delivering his verdict, but appeared to treat the case with scepticism from the start.
After one claimant, Vitaly Orlovsky, said Madonna's concert would prompt the divorce rate to skyrocket, Barkovsky asked him why he was suing no alcoholics, since alcoholism was a well-known cause of divorce in the heavy-drinking country.
Vitaly Milonov, a local MP who led St Petersburg's anti-gay campaign, accused Madonna of showing no respect for the court and said the star's actions answered the question "who's that girl".
"You can see what kind of person she is - for her, Russia is a cow from whom she can come and get milk - that is, money - and then leave, while not following our laws," Milonov said.