Ian McKellen urged to avoid travelling to Russia over anti-gay laws

The British Foreign Office has advised Ian McKellen to avoid going to Russia because of the country’s anti-gay “propaganda” law. Acclaimed for his role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, the openly gay star told Radio Times magazine that the British government said it “couldn’t protect [him] from those laws.” The law bans any “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” targeted towards anyone under the age of 18. The penalties for breaking the law includes fines and jail time. McKellen expressed disbelief at this ban, considering that the country is “the land of Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev – gay artists whose sexuality informed their work.”

Ian publicly came out when he was 49, and isn’t the first Hollywood star told effected by Russia’s anti-gay law. Prison Break star Wentworth Miller turned down an offer to attend a film festival in Russia, saying, “The situation is in no way acceptable, and I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.” Television host Andy Cohen declined the offer to host the Miss Universe 2013 pageant that took place in Russia, because he “didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”

Before reaching worldwide stardom, McKellen, 74, was well known in Britain for his theater career, winning six Laurence Olivier Awards for his stage work in England and a Tony award for the 1981 Broadway play, Amadeus. There has been no word yet on whether the actor will visit Russia, but the British Foreign Office urged those traveling to take note of “a degree of intolerance” of homosexuality in Russia. ~Jennifer Yoo

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