Russian lesbians denied country's first gay marriage

Tue May 12, 2009 12:07pm EDT
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By Amie Ferris-Rotman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A lesbian couple challenged the Russian legal system on Tuesday when they applied for a marriage license but it was swiftly rejected on the grounds that such a union must be between a woman and a man.

It was the first attempt by a gay couple to get a marriage license in Russia.

Irina Fyet, a 30-year-old PR worker, and beauty parlor owner Irina Shepitko, 32, said they would marry instead this summer in Toronto, where gay marriage is legal and no residency is required.

Clad in tuxedos and holding bouquets of white flowers, the pair, from southern Russia, said a gay marriage could improve the "dangerous" situation for homosexuals in Russian society.

"If society will know about us, see that we are normal, there would be a better relationship for (gays) at work, things would be simpler for us," Shepitko said before kissing Fyet.

"We have love, we have happiness. We want to be together forever and get married, in Russia," Fyet said after the pair sped in a sports car through the entrance of a register office in Moscow, where mayor Yuri Luzhkov once described gay pride marches as "satanic."

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, although there are some openly gay bars.   Continued...