Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Russian lesbian couple's attempt to marry in Moscow pushes gay rights

Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko sought a marriage license, knowing they’d be rejected. They hope their appeal can help pushing gay rights in Russia.

*photo - James Hill for The New York Times. For more photos - see prominent Russian gay activist and Moscow Pride organiser Nikolai Alexeyev's personal blog.

The New York Times
12 May 2009

MOSCOW — They knew they had no chance. But there they were anyway at a marriage registration office in Moscow on Tuesday. Two young women, wearing tuxedos and clutching bouquets, trying to become the first same-sex couple in Russia to legally wed.

“We have love, we have happiness, we want to be together for our whole lives and we want to do this here in Russia,” said Irina Fedotova, who hoped to marry her longtime partner, Irina Shipitko.

In a country where the push for gay rights has materialized only recently — and in fits and starts often met with violence and arrests — their attempt to marry was a bold, if muted, political statement as much as it was an expression of love.

The unsurprising response from the official at the registration office was dry and unequivocal. “According to article 12 of the family codex, for a marriage to be sanctioned it is necessary to have the mutual and voluntary agreement of a man and a woman.”

Both women said they had expected their marriage application to be rejected and said they would appeal the decision.

Their attempt to marry was meant in part to draw attention to gay rights in Russia as thousands of Europeans flood Moscow for the Eurovision song contest.

Gay rights groups plan a demonstration in Moscow Saturday, the day of the Eurovision final. [...]

In the past several years, however, Ms. Fedotova said she had noticed a slight increase in tolerance toward homosexuals in Russia, as more and more of them choose to live openly.

“In Moscow, specifically, gay society has received a minimal level of freedoms,” Ms. Fedotova said. “There are clubs and places to meet where you can find partners, but that is it.”

Ms. Fedotova, 30, and Ms. Shipitko, 32, have decided to marry in Canada, where they can do so legally, but said they would return to Russia and hopefully serve as an example to other gay couples and to Russian society.

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