Regardless of whether or not I like Lady Gaga as an artist, the positive work she has done for the LGBT community is something I have tremendous respect for. In this article from Wisconsin Gazette, she is reported to have thanked Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for opposing regional laws that make it a crime to provide minors with information about homosexuality. I believe it’s really important for popular stars like Lady Gaga and Madonna (read more about her at the end of the article) to express their pro-equality beliefs because they have such a following. These laws are ridiculous and education of any kind is very important to help people make informed decisions and expose them to a wider world. I don’t think we gain anything from sheltering the young – if anything, we are stifling their growth when we limit their knowledge. So, I’m very thankful that the Prime Minister has decided to take a more liberal stance from what has often a very closed-minded community. The pop star tweeted Saturday that she thanks the former president for “not standing by your party’s anti-gay propaganda law.” Gaga’s tweet followed her arrival in St. Petersburg, one of the three Russian cities that have recently passed bills imposing fines of up to $150,000 for providing minors with information on homosexuality, which the laws term “homosexual propaganda.” Asked about the laws, Medvedev said in a televised interview Friday that “not all relations between people can be regulated by law.” Last month, a district court in St. Petersburg threw out the Trade Union of Russian Citizens’ lawsuit seeking $10.7 million from Madonna for allegedly exposing youths to “homosexual propaganda” during a concert there over the summer. That ruling came after a one-day hearing that bordered on the farcical. During it, plaintiffs claimed that Madonna’s so-called “propaganda of perversion” would negatively affect Russia’s birthrate and erode the nation’s defense capability by depriving the country of future soldiers. At one point, the judge threatened to expel journalists from the courtroom if they laughed too much. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but homophobia remains strong, and gay rallies been dispersed by police and militant Orthodox activists. Anti-gay sentiment is particularly virulent in St. Petersburg, where local legislators passed a law in February that made it illegal to promote homosexuality to minors. Six months later, Madonna criticized the law on Facebook, then stood up for gay rights during a concert in St. Petersburg that drew fans as young as 12. “Who will children grow up to be if they hear about the equal rights of the lesbian lobby and manly love with traditional sexual relations?” one of the plaintiffs, Darya Dedova, testified. “The death rate prevails over the birth rate in the West; young guys are becoming gender neutral.” The plaintiffs submitted evidence about gay culture drawn from Wikipedia pages, claiming that a real encyclopedia could not have articles about homosexuality. “We aren’t against homosexual people, but we are against the propaganda of perversion among minors,” Dedova told the court. “We want to defend the values of a traditional family, which are currently in crisis in this country. Madonna violated our laws and she should be punished.” Madonna, who also performed in Moscow in August as part of her world tour, angered Russian officials by supporting jailed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot. The American said during her Moscow concert that she would “pray for them,” then turned around so the audience could see the words “Pussy Riot” written on her back. The singer also donned a ski mask similar to those worn by Pussy Riot. Despite international outrage, three of that band’s members were sentenced to two years in jail on hooliganism charges for performing a “punk prayer” at Moscow’s main cathedral, during which they pleaded with the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from President Vladimir Putin. One of the Pussy Riot members was later released from jail on appeal, but the other two are in prison camps serving their sentences.