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Russia constitution change a blow for gay couples – Republic World

  • July 13, 2020

At the Lagutenko wedding in 2017, the couple exchanged vows, rings and kisses in front of friends and relatives, then took a traditional drive in a limousine, stopping at landmarks for photos.

But because they are both women, the wedding was not legal in Russia.

If they had any hopes they could someday officially be married in their homeland, the possibility vanished on July 1 when voters approved a package of constitutional amendments, one of them stipulating that a marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Unlike many LGBT people in Russia who keep low profiles because of pervasive enmity against non-traditional sexuality, Irina and Anastasia Lagutenko live openly as a same-sex couple with a 21-month-old boy, named Dorian, born to Irina.

They lack, and probably will never receive, some rights accorded to heterosexual couples.

They will not be allowed to refuse to testify against their partner in court, they will not automatically inherit from each other, and they cannot see each other in hospitals that only allow family members to visit.

Anastasia is not a legal guardian for Dorian and cannot become one to represent his interests.

“I want to have the same legal rights for the child,” Anastasia told The Associated Press as Dorian played in her lap in their apartment.

“I planned this child. We went all the way of the pregnancy and the childbirth together, and now, I am 100%, 200% involved in the process of upbringing, and I consider him mine,” she said.

Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality decades ago, animosity against gays remains high.

In 2012, the Moscow city government ordered gay pride parades to be banned for the next 100 years.

The following year, the parliament unanimously passed a law forbidding “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors.

Attacks on the gay community persisted, in 2017 reports of extrajudicial arrests, torture and killings of gay men in the republic of Chechnya drew international condemnation.

Last year, Andrei Vaganov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, a couple raising two adopted children, had to flee Russia after a doctor reported them to police and authorities opened a criminal case.

Adoption by same-sex couples is banned in Russia, but Vaganov had applied as a single father.

Max Olenichev, a lawyer with the Coming Out gay rights group, is concerned that the constitutional changes will encourage anti-gay views.

Under the previous constitution, “the state had to create equal opportunities for all people that live in Russia, both for LGBT people and non-LGBT people. When these amendments come into effect, then, in fact, the state will only support conservative values and promote them. LGBT people will be left behind,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected criticism of the anti-gay spirit of the amendments package.

Political analyst Maria Lipman sees the article on marriage as the Kremlin’s attempt to stir up anti-gay sentiments among the conservative majority of Russian society to rally them around the new constitution, which has been mainly designed to allow Putin to seek two more terms in office.

The same trick was used by the authorities in 2012 to subdue Moscow’s massive anti-Putin protests, Lipman added, but in fact, there is no campaign for same-sex marriage in Russia.

Pyotr Tolstoy, a parliament member who supported the changes to the constitution, confirms that Russia is “a stronghold of traditionalism,” reflecting the widespread view that the country is under siege from decadent foreign influences.

Tolstoy, who is a deputy speaker in the lower house of parliament and heads the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, rejects the idea that the provision outlawing same-sex marriages in the constitution promotes intolerance.

The amendments will allow Russia “not to repeat the mistakes that exist in the West,” he told the AP.

“These mistakes, in my opinion, are fundamental, when certain people, the LGBT community or certain race groups, are being given additional, special rights. More rights than the majority.”

For Irina and Anastasia Lagutenko, it is not about any kind of special rights.

Anastasia says she just wants basic rights every parent has, the “reassurance” that she is “a lawful parent, like parents in a traditional family.”

“We don’t have a fear of living in the open and we won’t hide, because we are the same people and we have the same rights,” her partner Irina said.


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