Russian law explicitly defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. This is not really a shock, given just how well-entrenched the patriarchy is in Russian society, and it’s not as if things are so much better in 46 of the 50 states here in my home country of America. So I have to give a shout-out to Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko for marching into a government office and calmly asking for a marriage license. They were denied, as was to be expected, but that doesn’t detract from their attempt to show that marriage laws should be changed in Russia — a country that only decriminalized homosexuality in 1993.
The current state of affairs in Russia is such that any attempt at gay rights within society is swiftly shut down. A planned gay pride parade for this Saturday in Moscow has been banned, although organizers say it will still go on as planned. The parade has prompted such responses as “the gay parade is … an act of spiritual terrorism,” from Mikhail Nalimov, chairman of the Union of Orthodox Christian Youth. Oh yes, and Nalimov’s deputy has said that the parade is really just an attempt to convert people to the gay side. Mayor Yury Luzhkov doesn’t hesitate to go further, saying that the parade would be “Satanic”.
One reason this is so compelling to me is not merely that I’m bisexual and passionate about this issue, but I’m also part-Russian and my mother’s family has an intense love-hate relationship with the country. We love our heritage, but my Grandpa Buddy still holds a grudge about his parents being forced from their homes by the deadly pre-Revolution pogroms that were designed to kill and oppress the Jewish population. The rate of violence and discrimination against gays in Russia is the new acceptable form of discrimination, and even The Moscow Times notes that “casual homophobia is widespread in Russia”. (The article also features an incredibly lovely picture of Fedotova and Shipitko.) I’m not about to stand here and pretend that the state of gay rights in America is anywhere near where it should be, but I’m also not going to pretend that Russia’s attitude towards gay rights is at all acceptable. Things need to change, and I hope the pride parade goes off without a hitch this weekend.