Elton John Lashes Out at Russian Homophobia During St. Petersburg Concert

Wade Payne/Invision/AP
Elton John in concert

"If we start punishing people for [being gay], the world will lose its humanity"

Elton John spoke out against homophobia in Russia during a concert in St. Petersburg.

The singer told an audience at the city's Ice Palace venue that "if we start punishing people for [being gay], the world will lose its humanity."

Speaking from the stage, John criticized the dismantling in St. Petersburg last week of an interactive memorial to Apple founder Steve Jobs, which was taken down after the company's current chief Tim Cook, came out as gay.

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According to a post on his Facebook page, the singer told the crowd: "How dignified that St. Petersburg should erect a memorial to Steve Jobs, the remarkable founder of Apple. But last week it was labeled ‘homosexual propaganda’ and taken down! Steve’s memory is rewritten because his successor at Apple, Tim Cook, is gay?! Does that also make iPads gay propaganda?! Is Tchaikovsky’s beautiful music ‘sexually perverting’?!"

John, who has frequently toured Russia and remains hugely popular there, added: "As a gay man, I’ve always felt so welcome here in Russia. Stories of Russian fans — men and women who fell in love dancing to 'Nikita,' or their kids who sing along to 'Circle of Life' — mean the world to me. If I’m not honest about who I am, I couldn’t write this music. It’s not gay propaganda. It’s how I express life."

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It is not the first time that John, a longtime advocate of gay rights, has criticized homophobic attitudes in Russia. Last year he criticized new laws prohibiting the promotion of homosexual lifestyles to young people. In January, in comments on his website directed to Russian president Vladimir Putin, he wrote: "I would welcome the opportunity to introduce President Putin to some Russians who deserve to be heard, and who deserve to be treated in their own country with the same respect and warm welcome that I received on my last visit."

Russian media reported last week that at the same time the Steve Jobs memorial was being dismantled, a LGBT couple were married at a nearby registry office. The reports said that a Russian woman married a man in the process of transitioning to a woman, adding that although it is currently legal, under Russian law the union would be annulled once the man officially became a woman.