International pop sensation Sir Elton John has spoken of his desire to persuade Russia’s President Putin to be more tolerant of homosexuality and that “gay people are not the problem”. John admitted that the president would most likely laugh at him.
John, who is married to Canadian film-maker David Furnish with whom he has two adoptive children first performed in Russia in 1979, when it was still part of the Soviet Revolution. “I like the Russians. When I went there in 1979 I was astonished at how friendly and kind and lovely they were,” he told the BBC in an interview on Saturday.
Asked whether he could influence President Putin, John replied: “That’s a big question, probably not. I don’t know. But I’ll have a go. I’d love to meet him. I’d love to sit down with him and talk to him. It’s probably pie in the sky.
“At least if I meet him and say, listen, come on, let’s have a cup of tea, let’s talk about this. He may laugh behind my back when he shuts the door, and call me an absolute idiot, but at least I can have a conscience and say I’ve tried.
“I’d say, come on. Gay people are not the problem here. We are not the problem of the world. The world faces much bigger problems than gay people.
“Be accepting and let’s all pull together and try and solve the problems of the world. But don’t isolate and be prejudiced against gay people.”
In 2013 Russia’s parliament unanimously passed a federal ban on “gay propaganda” amid a Kremlin push to enshrine support for traditional values. The law banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, as well as making it “illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights.”
In June of this year, President Putin’s United Russia party unveiled a ‘straight pride’ flag to counter the rainbow flag of gay pride flown widely after America’s supreme court ruled to legalise gay marriage in the United States. “This is our response to same-sex marriage, this mockery of the concept of family,” declared Alexey Lisovenko, head of the United Russia Moscow branch. “We have to fight off gay fever at home and maintain traditional values.”
John was modest about the power that musicians really have to change politician’s minds, saying: “Probably the only power I have is to use my fame and fortune to bring people together for music and then try to use the message of peace and acceptance and inclusion afterwards in my elder age.”
He also admitted that he was “not mature enough” to push a political line when in his 40s and 50s as he was “drunk” and a “drug addict” at the time.
John is currently in neighbouring Ukraine, where he has met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to call for Ukraine to give stronger support to the LGBT community. He has also met with business leaders for the same reason.