Anti-gay sentiment is strong in Russia. In St. Petersburg, a law passed in February makes it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors, and the author of that law has pointed to the presence of children as young as 12 at Madonna's concert on Aug. 9.
Russian news agencies quote Alexander Pochuyev, a lawyer representing the nine activists, as saying the suit was filed Friday against Madonna, the organizer of her concert, and the hall where it was held, asking for damages totaling 333 million rubles, or nearly $10.5 million.
Responding to criticism that the plaintiffs were stuck in the Middle Ages, the lawyer said they were using civilized, modern methods to defend their rights. "No one is burning anyone at the stake or carrying out an Inquisition," Pochuyev was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying. "Modern civilization requires tolerance and respect for different values."
The complaint includes a video taken at the concert showing Madonna stomping on an Orthodox cross and asking fans to raise their hands to show the pink armbands in support of gays and lesbians that were distributed among the audience, the new agency reported.
Madonna's spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg, did not immediately respond to emails asking for the singer's reaction to the lawsuit.
Madonna also has angered conservative Russians with her support for Pussy Riot. Three members of the punk band were sentenced Friday to two years in prison for a protest inside Moscow's main cathedral against Vladimir Putin and his cozy relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Madonna spoke out in support of the group during her concert in St. Petersburg and two days earlier in Moscow. After the verdict was issued, Madonna called on "all those who love freedom to condemn this unjust punishment."