January 21, 2010 / 1:00 PM / 10 years ago

Court rejects Russian lesbians' Canada marriage

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian lesbians on Thursday lost their bid to have their marriage in Canada recognized by a Moscow court, after a judge dismissed their argument that Russian law recognizes foreign marriages.

Public relations worker Irina Fyet, 30, and beauty parlor owner Irina Shepitko, 32, married in Toronto in October after an application for a marriage license in Moscow was rejected on the grounds that such a union must be between a man and a woman.

The couple are the first gay pair to attempt to get a marriage license in Russia.

“I will have to uphold the decision made by the registry office in May. Foreign marriages accepted in Russia must involve a couple of opposite sex,” judge Boris Gerbekov ruled.

Fyet said the couple would take their case to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, though a judgment could take up to five years.

“We were born here, this is our country, we want to be married in our homeland, Russia,” said Fyet.

“We are putting a lot of hope into the European Court. Russia simply has to accept their decision,” she said.

Homophobia is deeply rooted in Russia, where gay pride marches are widely condemned and the homosexual scene is largely underground.

Since their Russian marriage attempt, the pair have been flooded with letters of support from the country’s hidden gay community but also received hate mail.

The Soviet Union banned homosexuality and any type of nudity on television and Russia did not decriminalize gay sex until 1993, two years after the collapse of communism.

Four years ago, police, militant Orthodox Christians and neo-fascists attacked and violently broke up the first gay rights march in Moscow.

Editing by Jon Boyle

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