MOSCOW — Madonna is boasting about not paying a $1 million fine allegedly slapped on her for supporting Russia’s LGBTQ community at a 2012 show in St. Petersburg.
But a Russian court threw out the lawsuit filed by a group of conservative activists, and the singer was never fined a single ruble.
The debacle centers around a show Madonna played on Aug. 9, 2012, in St. Petersburg, during which she voiced her support for the local gay community. At the entrance to the Peterburgsky arena, audience members were handed pink wristbands and asked to wear them during the concert to show “tolerance for the gay community.”
In a tweet and Instagram post on Monday, Madonna linked to a video showing part of her speech that night. “I was fined 1 million dollars by The government for supporting the Gay community,” she wrote. “I never paid.”
In the video she addresses the audience, many of whom were waving rainbow flags.
“I feel that people are becoming more and more afraid of people who are different,” Madonna says on the video. “People are becoming more and more intolerant. It’s a very scary time. But we can make a difference. We can change this. We have the power.”
In the same speech, she told the audience: “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.”
After the 2012 show, a group of conservative activists filed a class-action lawsuit against Madonna, the venue and the promoter, Planeta Plus, demanding 333 million rubles ($10.7 million at the time) in damages, claiming they were insulted by the American singer’s statements and actions in support of the gay community.
But that November, St. Petersburg’s Moskovsky district court threw out the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the court confirmed to Billboard on Wednesday. No fine was ever imposed on the artist, venue or promoter, the spokesperson said.
“There was no gay propaganda during the show,” Yevgeny Filkenshtein, head of PMI Group, which promoted the show, tells Billboard. “Madonna just called on the audiences to be tolerant towards people of other sexual orientation and religious persuasions,” he says. “We protected Madonna from all that in any possible way and dealt with the lawsuit by ourselves. The court eventually sided with us and the artist, and no fine was imposed.”
Several months after the 2012 show, Vitaly Milonov, a conservative St. Petersburg legislator who was behind an anti-gay propaganda law first introduced in the city and then nationwide in Russia, claimed that Madonna had violated Russia’s tax and migration legislation by performing the show on the wrong type of visa and should be punished for that. But he never produced any evidence to back his claims.
Several Russian media outlets have reported on Madonna’s tweet, expressing surprise about the non-existing $1 million fine. Russia has traditionally been hostile towards homosexuality, and intolerance has been on the rise. Same-sex couples are not allowed to marry or form civil unions in Russia.
Madonna did not respond to requests for comment.
She is hardly alone in the music community for her criticism of Russia’s increasingly anti-gay laws. Lady Gaga and Elton John are among the pop stars who have spoken out about local and national laws impacting the LGBTQ community. Citing an administrative law, a St Petersburg court fined the organizers of a 2013 Lady Gaga show for “propaganda of alcohol consumption and homosexuality,” after a 13-year-old girl was exposed to simulated sexual intercourse between women. Russian President Vladimir Putin last year pushed back against John’s criticisms, saying Russia was “very neutral” toward the LGBTQ community.