18 Celebrities Speaking Up For LGBT Equality In Russia

See which A-listers are putting the “A” in advocacy.

Last June, after years of regional momentum, the Russian Duma passed and President Vladimir Putin signed the now-infamous law prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”

Russian LGBT activists have led the fight against the odious bill, but they’ve gotten support from people around the world, including celebrities. Now with the Olympic Winter Games just days away, it’s time to take a look at 18 stars shining brightly in support of LGBT Russians, helping to keep the Olympic Torch aflame under this repressive wet blanket.

1. Madonna

“Together, we can send a message to LGBT Russians that the world is on their side, and that those who seek to support them aren’t alone in this fundamental fight for fairness.” – HRC

2. Lady Gaga

“I don’t think that we should be going to the Olympics at all. I mean, I would never take anything away from [the athlete’s] hard work, I just think it is absolutely wrong for so many countries to send money and economy in the way of a country that doesn’t support gays … It made me very sad to see the pain that some of the gay kids are in in Russia and for the world to send their finest for the Olympics … I can’t, it just feels so wrong and sad. I hate saying that, because I’m so excited for those like Tom Daley to go and to win and to rejoice.” – The Independent

3. Melissa Etheridge

Ethridge’s new release inspired the Uprising of Love movement supporting Russian organizations pressing for long-term change and equality for the LGBT community

“I would be there with bells on,” Etheridge said. “I would love to go offer support, offer visibility, stand there just as a known gay person.” – The Huffington Post

4. Cher

Cher recounted receiving a call from a friend “who is a big [Russian oligarch]”. “[He] asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show,” she said. “I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there.” – The Guardian

5. Ian McKellen

“In my case I have been warned by the UK Foreign Office that in Russia I could not speak openly about my sexuality, at least in the hearing of anyone under the age of 18. I have therefore felt that I had to turn down invitations to attend Russian film festivals.” – open letter to President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people written by 27 Nobel laureates

6. Elton John

“I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the antigay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.” – The Huffington Post

“What I heard reinforced all the media stories that have been circling since the propaganda bill became federal law: that v vicious homophobia has been legitimized by this legislation and given extremists the cover to abuse people’s basic human rights.” – a statement released by Elton upon returning from a trip to Russia in December 2013

7. Jon Stewart

“Well, there’s an Olympics 2014 motto. ‘Russia: Where the Police Don’t Always Help the People Beating You!’” – a segment on The Daily Show about antigay legislation around the world

8. Mikhail Baryshnikov

“My life has been immensely enriched by gay mentors, colleagues and friends and any discrimination and persecution of gay people is unacceptable. Equal treatment of people is a basic right and it is sad that we still have to even speak about this in [the] 21st century.” – The Huffington Post

9. Tilda Swinton

“In Solidarity. From Russia with love.”

10. Sigourney Weaver

“I’m incredibly surprised by the way that Putin is digging in and becoming a real dictator. He was a sort of secret dictator and now, with everything’s he’s done, it’s radical, it’s such a frightening time. It’s happening right in front of us. It’s hard for me to believe that there’s nothing the world can’t do to save those girls [Pussy Riot] and young people. It’s crazy for have someone say, ‘You can’t be you in this country.’” – a discussion after New York City screening of Prayers for Bobby on National Coming Out Day 2013

11. Wentworth Miller

“I am deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government. The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.” – a letter declining an invitation to the St. Petersburg International Film Festival

13. Jay Leno

“I don’t know how [Russia’s law is] different from — I mean, this is how it started in Nazi Germany — ‘Oh, the Jews, let’s put them over here. It makes me uncomfortable.”

14. Stephen Fry

“Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations areignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law.”

“He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews.”

“I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian “correctively” raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.” – excerpts from a letter penned to the IOC

15. Dustin Lance Black, Bruce Cohen & Gus Van Sant

The team behind “Milk” traveled to St. Petersburg where their film was screened, complete with a bomb-threat interruption, at the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival.

“These are people who deserve our friendship, our kindness, and absolutely need our support…We want to help make sure that the world keeps and eye on Russia. If someone is harmed, put in jail, fined, [we] will do our best to support them and help protect them.” – Black

“It presents the appearance of being a free, democratic society. But, boy oh boy, it’s not. It’s all a very calculated and clever appearance that the government has worked hard to present. “ – Cohen

16. Chris Pine

”I think we should do more than just send gay Olympians there. What’s happening there in terms of gay rights or the lack of it is extraordinary and awful.” – The Huffington Post

17. George Takei

“Russia’s cynical and deplorable actions against the LGBT community have given license to hate groups within its borders to act with violence and impunity against a group, based solely on whom they were born to love.” – a post from Takei’s blog

18. Harvey Fierstein

“Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians…With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure. American and world leaders must speak out against Mr. Putin’s attacks and the violence they foster. The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.” – OP-ED in The New York Times

Special mention to the celebrities participating in HRC’s Love Conquers Hate campaign:

Matt Damon, Jonah Hill, Ricky Martin, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon & Mark Ruffalo

And to the celebrities (not yet mentioned above) supporting Melissa Etheridge, Bruce Cohen & Dustin Lance Black’s Uprising of Love campaign:

Julianne Moore & Cyndi Lauper

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