Lesbian couple marry in controversial Russian ceremony
Russia has seen its first LGBT wedding – despite laws which are widely viewed outside Russia as hostile to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
St Petersburg couple, Irina Shumilova and Alyona Fursova exploited a legal loop hole to get married – they were able to do so because under Russian law Shumilova is legally a man.
Shumilova describes herself as a transsexual – which she defines as being psychologically a woman – despite having male chromosomes. She distinguishes this from transgender which she defines as a question of social and biological sex.
Transgender individuals are permitted to change their sex on their identification documents in Russia but this does not apply to transsexuals. This left the Russian legal system in a bind. The marriage registrars either had to accept Shumilova as a woman, which was not legal, or marry the couple as a normal man and woman under the Family Code of Russia.
Article 12 Section 2 of the Code says “to enter into a marriage, the voluntary consent of the man and of the woman entering into it, and their marriageable age shall be necessary.”
By stipulating man and woman the code outlaws same sex marriage but is effectively silent about transsexuals.
In June last year the Russian Duma in Moscow passed Part 1 of Article 6.21 of the Code of Administrative Offenses – a law banning “propaganda of non- traditional sexual relations to minors” It also mooted a law to take children away from homosexual parents.
Propaganda has been vaguely defined and the laws have been condemned outside Russia as justification for persecution of Russia’s LGBT community. Homophobic attacks are increasing in Russia and Pride events attract violence. The country found itself in the headlines last week because a group of Russian companies ordered the destruction of a memorial to Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs when Tim Cook, Apple’s current chief executive officer came out as gay.
Article 6.21 has been legally challenged but the Russian Constitutional Court upheld it. A judgment in September said “The aim pursued by federal lawmakers in establishing this norm was to protect children from information that could push them to non-traditional sexual relations, the adherence to which hinders the development of family relations as they are traditionally understood in Russia.”
Russia is one of 25 countries covered by Britain’s Consular Marriage and Marriages under Foreign Law Order 2014 which permits same sex marriages to take place in British consulates abroad.