SIR Ian McKellen has written an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to change a controversial law banning “homosexual propaganda”.
The Lord of the Rings actor joined forces with 27 Nobel laureates to devise the letter which was also given to The Independent newspaper to publish. It speaks out against the ban on “homosexual propaganda” which activists say has led to violence and even suicides among gay people.
The demand was formulated by Sir Harry Kroto and his friend Sir Ian, an influential spokesman for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights.
The pair have known each other since their school days.
The plea states: “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.
“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.”
The move comes just days ahead of the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia.
Mr Putin has faced hostility over the legislation which outlaws the promotion of what he refers to as “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The ruling now prompts fears that gay foreign athletes could be targeted whilst competing.
The law has been interpreted as banning parents or teachers from ascribing equal rights to same sex couples and is alleged to have given the green light for vigilante groups to terrorise the LGBT community in Russia.
Sir Ian, who signed the letter “AKA Henry V/Gandalf”, said he had been advised by the UK Foreign Office that he could not speak openly about his sexuality while in Russia, so had turned down the opportunity to appear at film festivals there.