British actor Sir Ian McKellen and 27 Nobel laureates have written an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, urging him to repeal a law banning “homosexual propaganda”. The Russian law, which was passed in summer 2013, makes it illegal to promote “non-traditional sexual relations to minors”. Its passage sparked outrage among western human rights groups for discriminating against the gay community in Russia. Russian activists claim the law has led to a rise in violence against gay people.
"The letter is written to indicate that many senior members of the international scientific community show solidarity with politicians, artists, sports people and many others who have already expressed their abhorrence for the Russian government's actions against its gay citizens," the letter states.
"Protest is never easy but we hope that by expressing opposition to the new legislation it might be possible to encourage the Russian state to embrace the 21st century humanitarian, political and inclusive democratic principles which Mikhail Gorbachev worked so hard to achieve,” it adds.
McKellen, best known for his role as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, penned the letter with chemist and Nobel Laureate Sir Harry Kroto. Other notable figures to have signed the letter are novelist JM Coetzee and geneticist Sir Paul Nurse.
McKellen said that he had turned down the chance to participate in Russian film festivals after the UK Foreign Office said he could not speak openly about his sexuality in Russia. Over the past year, a growing number of cultural figures have refused invitations to Russia because of the law. They include Prison Break star Wentworth Miller; US TV personality Andy Cohen; Marius von Mayerburg, one of Germany’s most prolific contemporary playwrights.
The full letter can be found here.