The LGBT community in Russia has faced serious oppression from their families and lawmakers as a part of the country’s ‘same-gender marriage propaganda’ laws which are forcing many of these couples to flee the country in order to avoid persecution.

One Russian same-gender couple who got married in Denmark returned back to their country to find a legal loophole in the Russian law which enabled them to legalize their marriage. However, they soon discovered that their lives were in danger if they stayed in the country for too long.

A Legal Loophole in Russia’s Marriage Law

Eugene Wojciechowski and Pavel Stotzko have been together for many years, but while living in Russia, they kept their identities and relationship under cover in fear that they could become a target of the country’s hate propaganda against the their community. The two quietly left the country and arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark to realize their wish of getting married.

All was well until the couple had to return home and face the reality of the country’s laws which do not recognize same-gender marriages. The newly-wed duo arrived at the airport in Moscow and showed their marriage certificate to the custom officers along with their passports. They expected some sort of hesitation or pushback from the officials, but instead, they were allowed to pass through the passport control without a problem.

The Government Takes Strict Action Against the Couple

The news was first published by The Independent which reported that the couple had found a way to get their Danish marriage certificate recognized in Russia due to a legal loophole found in the country’s marriage law which states that any marriages legalized outside of Russia will also be recognized inside the country as long as do no violate the article 14 of Family Code.

What this meant was that as long two married people – despite their gender – were not close relatives or involved in polygamous unions, their marriage was legal in Russia.

The clerk at the airport’s passport control booth approved of the same-gender couple’s union and stamped the marital status in their Russian passports without any questions.

Eugene Wojciechowski and Pavel Stotzko have become the first same-gender couple in Russia to have their marriage recognized by the country’s law.

Facing Legal Charges

The couple was joyous to have discovered such a major legal loophole which could impact the rights of their community in Russia– but their joy was short-lived. When the news of Russia’s first legalized same-gender marriage reached the country’s Interior Ministry, the lawmakers were quick to take action against the couple and revoke their passports. The custom officer who stamped the two passports was also accused of violating the legislation and was immediately dismissed from his duties.

Voitsekhovsky and Stosko have now been charged with the intentional damage of their passports and the police is looking for them but LGBT rights activists say that the two have already fled the country due to a threat to their security and freedom. The couple has not disclosed their current location due to threats from the police that they would not protect them against any persecutions or attacks, the head of LGBT community, Igor Kochetkov, explained. It has now almost been a month since Voitsekhovsky and Stosko tied the knot in Copenhagen and their newly-married life isn’t going the way they had expected.

The Couple Goes into Hiding

Pavel Stotzko (L) and Yevgeny Voitsekhovsky (R) photographed in Denmark next to their new passports after getting married

Kochetkov said in his statement that the police aren’t performing their duty in protecting the country’s civilians. Instead, the authorities showed up the couple’s house in Moscow and blocked the entrance in an effort to retrieve their passports to prevent them from fleeing. The internet and electricity of their apartment had also been cut off for hours to stop the two from making contact with any of their friends and family.

The couple has rejected the charges of intentionally damaging their passports saying that it wasn’t them but a government-appointed official who had stamped their documents in accordance with the country’s law. On January 29, Stosko and Voitsekhovsky turned in their invalid passports and were immediately issued new ones.

Do you think it is time for Russia to abandon its ‘same-gender marriage propaganda’ laws and grant all its civilians freedom of expression?

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