A flustered-looking official denied their application Tuesday, a move that gay rights activists say symbolizes the refusal of many Russian officials to recognize the rights of the country's gay and lesbian communities. Registry office director Svetlana Potamoshneva, seemingly embarrassed, handed them a written rejection and said Russian law recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman.
The couple declared that this wouldn't be the last time they will try.
"We won't stop in midstream," Fedotova told journalists later, saying she and her partner plan to get married in Canada. She said Russia recognizes marriages registered abroad, thus allowing the couple to formalize their relationship.
Russians consider gay rights taboo, but the couple intend to get their story out through the media of the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest finals, a massively popular European contest being held in Moscow this year.
Moscow Pride is scheduled for this Saturday, but Moscow authorities have banned the march, and religious and nationalist groups said Tuesday they have asked for permission to hold a counter-demonstration in central Moscow.
"The gay parade is ... an act of spiritual terrorism," said Mikhail Nalimov, chairman of the Union of Orthodox Christian Youth.
His deputy, Dmitry Terekhov, said the parade was in part aimed at converting people to homosexuality. "This must be stopped by radical methods, but without violence naturally," he said.
In some countries, gays have won increasing acceptance—including the right to marry—but in many nations of the former Communist bloc homophobia remains rampant.
"The protesters'" flyer shows garishly made-up transvestites juxtaposed with an image from the Beslan school hostage crisis. In 2004, Chechen terrorists stormed a school in the Russian republic of North Ossetia and held 1,200 children and adults captive for days. Hundreds died in the bloody drama. 'Homosexuality is the same as terrorism,' asserts one of the Pushkin Square activists. He and his colleagues call themselves the Orthodox Front. They tell interested passersby that the gay parade is a provocation against the government and promotes homosexuality. Many people are happy to sign the petition.Despite being rejected a marriage license, Fedotova and Shepitko said they will continue to fight for recognition of their rights. They have lived through years of threats and intimidation, they said, and want to have a marriage equal to that of heterosexual couples.
These women deserve commendation. Many people have been killed in Russia for what, in the populace's eyes, are far less offenses. Imagine the bravery that is needed to be so open as they had to be to walk into the registry and demand a license knowing you could easily be physically threatened, if not killed. Yes, we face such threats here, but there, it's encouraged.
It's a good reminder that, despite our lack of equality here in America, there are many others in the LGBT population suffering far worse outside our borders.