Recognition of same-sex unions in Russia
|Legal recognition of
*Not yet in effect
Russia recognizes neither same-sex marriage nor any other form of civil union for same-sex couples. However, gay activists claim that a same-sex marriage contracted abroad can legally be recognized in Russia. The Russian legislation has a limited number of reasons which prevent the recognition of legal foreign marriages in Russia and a marriage entered into by two persons of the same sex is not one of them.
Attitude of Russians towards same-sex marriage
According to the majority of the former republics of the Soviet Union, support for legal recognition of same-sex couples is very limited, and as of 2009, the government has yet to signal any signs of support for such legislation.
In 2005, two polls have been conducted in Russia on the issue of same sex marriage. None of the research covered the support for civil union. While, they both give similar results they were conducted by different polling institutes:
- In January, a poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that only 14% of Russians support same-sex marriage, with an additional 17% divided on the issue. In comparison, 59% of Russians oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage, with 25% of respondents choosing "somewhat disagree" and an additional 34% of those polled "completely disagreed." An extra 10% of those polled chose "hard to answer." The poll did not cover support for civil unions.
- In April, a public opinion poll ordered by the LGBT Human Rights Project Gayrussia.ru and realized by the Public Opinion Organization Levada Center showed that 73.4% of Russians are against the legalization of same-sex marriages against 14.3% supporting it.
- Same sex partners of foreign diplomats are in practice granted accreditation as "family members" in Russia.
Same-sex marriage campaign in Russia
In April 2009, Nikolai Alekseev launched a campaign for same sex marriage in Russia. He had previously stated in 2005 and again in 2008 that his LGBT Human Rights Project Gayrussia.ru is ready to help a genuine gay or lesbian couples who want to get its family and marriage rights respected in Russia.
On May 12, 2009, a lesbian couple, Irina Fedotova (Fet) and Irina Shipitko applied for marriage at the Tverskoy Office for the Registration of Civil Acts (ZAGS) in the centre of Moscow. The couple's appeal to the Court said: "The Russian Constitution and family laws do not prohibit same-sex marriages." The lesbian couple declared to The New York Times: "We have love, we have happiness, we want to be together for our whole lives and we want to do this here in Russia." 
It was done during the upcoming Slavic Pride and also upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2009, both scheduled on May 16 in Moscow. The 2009 edition of Moscow Pride, renamed as Slavic Pride, took place under the motto "Gay equality - no compromise", postulating the right to adopt children and same-sex marriage. The location of the protest was changed at the last moment to the Vorobyovy Gory viewpoint near Moscow State University, a popular spot for wedding photographs. This location underlined the motto of the protest. The couple received a written denial from Svetlana Potamyshneva, head of the office, who denied to register the marriage stating that “Point 3 of Article 1 of the Family Code of Russia stipulates that the regulation of family relations must adhere to the principle of a voluntary union between a man and a woman”. In June 2009, the couple appealed to the Tverskoy District Court against the written denial they received from the Marriage office. Their claim stated: "The Russian Constitution and family laws do not prohibit same-sex marriages. In addition, family and marriage rights, including those same-sex, are guaranteed with Articles 8 and 12 of the European Human Rights Convention ratified by the Russian Federation". The Court hearing scheduled on August 26, 2009 was postponed to September 9, 2009 and later, October 6, 2009. The Court upheld the decision of the Tverskoy ZAGS and rejected the arguments of the couple. Nikolai Alekseev told journalists that the case will be appealed up to Supreme Court and to the European Court of Human Rights. Caroline Mecary -a French lawyer who defend a French gay couple in a similar case at the European Court, said in June 2009 that she will take the case of the Russian couple to Strasbourg. Nikolai Alekseev, who acted as the lawyer of the lesbian couple, told the journalist that his organization will help the couple to legally register their marriage in Canada in October 2009 and later seek its legal recognition in Russia.  
The couple has announced their intent to marry in Toronto, Canada on 23 October 2009, where same-sex marriage is opened for non-residents and later pursue legal recognition of their union from the Russian government.
The couple entered into same-sex marriage as planned on October 23. The ceremony was celebrated by first Canadian openly gay Judge Harvey Brownstone. Numerous media and local activists were present at the ceremony during which Irina Fedotova-Fet and Irina Shipitko exchanged vows. The newly wed couple received their marriage certificate which they intend to use upon their return to Russia to have their Canadian marriage also recognized in their home country. While the Family Code limits marriage to opposite-sex couples in Russia, there is a loophole in terms of the recognition of foreign marriages, where the basis of gender is not specified. The couple together with their lawyer Nikolai Alekseev as well as local activists hosted a press conference at the Toronto City Hall before the ceremony during which Canadian gay activists spoke about their struggle for marriage equality stressing the importance of supporting similar movements in other countries, including Russia.
On 21 January 2010, the Moscow City Court upheld the decision of the Tverskoy District Court of 6 October 2009. In July 2010 Irina Fedotova (Fet) and Irina Shipitko launched their complaint against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights.
- LGBT Human Rights Project Gayrussia.ru
- LGBT rights in Russia
- LGBT culture in Russia
- Moscow Pride
- Nikolai Alekseev
- Same-Sex Marriages Inside the Closet: Deconstruction of Gay and Lesbian Discourses in Russia
- French Wikipedia about Caroline Mecary
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- Russian lesbian couple denied right to tie knot in Moscow