In Russia it is illegal to even confirm the existence of homosexuality to children. Not only does the government turn a blind eye to violence against LGBT people, it encourages it. So it’s unclear why anyone thought there was even a chance that Cher would agree to perform there. But someone did. And she said no. The mind reels.
Cher mentioned the invite during an interview with Maclean’s, a Canadian magazine:
I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch [in Russia], and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show. I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.
Cher is perhaps the most outspoken advocate for the LGBT community. She also tells Maclean’s why she identifies with people on the fringes of society. “People hated Sonny and I in the early days because we looked and acted so different. Sonny was always getting into fights-people would called him ‘fag’ and he’d get his nose broken-only because we were dressing different. And these were our street clothes! You can’t forget that. We tried getting on TV but the backlash against the networks was so bad, they wouldn’t invite us back.”
Cher isn’t the only celebrity to say no thanks to a Russian invite since the country made it abundantly clear that it believes gay people are subhuman. Wentworth Miller recently penned an open letter rejecting an invite to the St. Petersburg International Film Festival.
There have been conflicting reports whether or not gay athletes will be subject to arrest while in Russia for the Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee has insisted that Russia will comply with the Olympic Charter which bans discrimination. However, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov has insisted that the law will be upheld, saying: “If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.”