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Petition for Met LGBT Gala Gains Ground

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- After attracting the attention of major news outlets, a petition asking the Metropolitan Opera to dedicate its season opening gala to the world's gay and lesbian community, as a counter measure to strict antigay laws enacted in Russia, could easily pass 10,000 signatures before the Sept. 23 gala.

An interview I had with its author, New Jersey composer Andrew Rudin, was published in an article on TheStreet Aug. 2. At that time, the petition was just beginning to gain notice on Facebook (FB), and had just over 200 signatures. By Aug. 5, it had broken 1,000. By the time the New York Times published its article Aug. 20, the total had grown to over 3,000.

At last check 8 a.m. Friday, the petition had close to 7,000. To put that in perspective, the opera house seats about 3,800.

The Met and one of the Russian opera stars involved in the performance have both issued tepid responses that have left signers of the petition unsatisfied. In addition to the New York Times, most of the world's media outlets have picked up the story, including NPR, the LA Times and others. Rudin posted on Facebook Thursday that he has had interviews with Radio Free Europe, German Public Radio and CBS News as well.

Homosexuality has been legal in Russia since 1993, but circumstances for LGBT people have been worsening in recent years. Gay pride parades and other pro-LGBT demonstrations had been outlawed in several cities, with the official reasoning being to prevent mob attacks on gay people.

In June and July of 2013, Putin's administration enacted laws barring 1.) the adoption of children by same sex couples living in countries that recognize gay marriage and 2.) the dissemination of gay "propaganda," which apparently includes any open displays of support for LGBT people. The stated purpose of these laws is the protection of children. Homosexuality is widely viewed in Russia as a moral corruption by external influences. In particular, the Russian Orthodox Church views gay rights as literally a sign of the apocalypse.

In outlawing displays of support for LGBT people, legislators used language that equates homosexuality and pedophilia and says that making homosexuality attractive or equating it with heterosexuality undermines the sovereign integrity of the state. Even arguments for sexual preference equality in a court of law can be punished. Violations of the "propaganda" law may involve fines, jail time of up to two weeks and, for foreigners, deportation.

The laws have caused an international outcry, not the least because they seem to have further demonized gays in the public mind and increased violence against them.

The Met Enters, Stage Left

As the result of a programming decision made, in all likelihood, years ago, the Metropolitan Opera finds itself unwittingly and increasingly a focus of that anger.

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