Cher is the latest celebrity to refuse to travel to Russia in the wake of the country’s new anti-gay law.
“I can’t name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show. I immediately said no,” the 67-year-old singer and actress told Maclean’s magazine. “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.”
In June, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a new law that would impose fines on people accused of promoting “homosexual propaganda.” Other measures are also being taken, including penalties for anyone who expresses “gay pride” online or via the media.
Cher, who is considered a gay icon, said she knew what it was like to be hated for being different.
“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 “f*g” and he’d get his nose broken—only because we were dressing different,” she said. “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 turn down a trip to Russia in the wake of the country’s new law. Prison Break star Wentworth Miller recently turned down an invitation to attend the St. Petersburg’s International Film Festival, confessing that he is a gay man.
“Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes,” Miller wrote. “However, as a gay man, I must decline.”
Miller went on to say that he was “deeply troubled” by the country’s treatment of gay men and women.