Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Russian Same-Sex Marriage?

Well, probably not.

Russia is not what we might call LGBTQ-friendly, in all respects. Reports do not indicate a thriving gay scene, and, at best, it's minor and not that open. The gay pride parade planned this Saturday, for example, has been officially banned in Moscow.

However, two lesbians tried to take on the state, suing for their right to marry each other this month. They are trying to use a loophole in Russian law to open up the country:

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev stepped in after a register office worker breached Russian law by at first refusing to let the couple even apply for the marriage license.

"This is about the private rights of citizens ... and today they (Fyet and Shepitko) were denied this. That means that this country violates a person's rights," he told reporters.

While most marriage applications receive a response within 10 working days, the pair were rejected in just under an hour.

"By the Russian family code, a marriage must be between a man and a woman. This is the law and also my personal opinion," said director of the register office, Svetlana Potamoshneva.

Shepitko said they expected a rejection so they were not disappointed. They are banking on a loophole in Russian law which bans gay marriage at home but does not prevent the recognition of a same-sex marriage that has taken place abroad.

"The Russian constitution must accept our Canadian union," she said.

Potamoshneva acknowledged a grey area existed but said any decision regarding a foreign gay marriage would "have to be one for the court."
The couple, 30-year old Irina Fyet and 32-year old Irina Shepitko, said they wanted to go public because "If society will know about us, see that we are normal, there would be a better relationship for (gays) at work, things would be simpler for us."

Outcome: uncertain, but unlikely.

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