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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A lesbian couple will try to defy deep-rooted Russian homophobia next week in the first attempt at a gay marriage even though rights activists say it will be rejected outright.
Public relations worker Irina Fyet, 31, and her partner of the same age will apply for a marriage license at a register office on May 12 in Moscow, a city where mayor Yuri Luzhkov once described gay pride marches as "satanic."
Gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseyev said it was the first time a gay couple would apply for a license.
"I am 99 percent sure there will be a refusal, but maybe later the situation in Russia can change, the political feeling can change," he told Reuters on Wednesday.
The pair will most likely legally marry in the coming months in Toronto, or Norway, he added. Neither country requires residency for gay couples wishing to marry.
Activists say a loophole exists 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 Soviet Union banned homosexuality and any type of nudity on TV, and Russia did not decriminalize gay sex until 1993, two years after the USSR's collapse.
Unlike other major European cities, Moscow has no gay-friendly district and the homosexual scene is still largely underground.
Despite the fact that one of Russia's most popular musical groups abroad, Tatu, traded on their fictionalized lesbian image, same-sex couples are rarely seen being affectionate in public.
"They want to be able to live like other citizens, this is not (gay) propaganda," Alekseyev said of Fyet and her partner.
His website www.gayrussia.ru quotes Fyet as saying "Our love is no different (than others)."
Gay pride parades, unheard of in the days of the Soviet Union, have been allowed in some cities in recent years but are generally met with public and political derision.
Three years ago, police, militant Orthodox Christians and neo-fascists attacked and violently broke up the first gay rights march in Moscow.
Next week's Russian gay pride march will purposely coincide with Moscow's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest and competitors will be asked to back homosexual rights on stage.
The Russian Orthodox Church, resurgent since the fall of the Soviet Union, has helped turn public sentiment against gay pride events, which the then head of the church, Patriarch Alexey II, has called "propaganda for homosexuality."
Editing by Alison Williams