By Thom Senzee
Originally published on Advocate.com August 22 2014 5:48 PM ET
Unless Russian authorities change their minds, a Moscow couple may have become the first same-sex couple to legally wed in Russia.
Alina Davis, who was assigned male at birth but identifies as androgyne — a nonbinary gender identity embraced by some who feel they don't fit neatly into either "male" or "female" identities — married Allison Brooks in Moscow August 6, to the reported consternation of Russian officials, who pointed to the country's ban on so-called gay propaganda as a reason the couple, clad in matching white wedding gowns, could not exchange vows.
Russian law insists Davis's gender is male, although The Moscow Times reports that Davis's profile page on Vkontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, states that she is "psychologically a girl." Because Davis's new wife is legally recognized as female, the couple were able to capitalize on the legal technicality of being an opposite-sex couple, despite their presentation, according to Pink News.
That doesn't mean officials didn't try to find a justification to deny Davis, 23, and Brooks, 19, a marriage license. The Moscow Times reports that Davis recounted on her Vkontakte page how the registrar spent 15 minutes chiding the couple before ultimately relenting.
"She called us the shame of the family and said we need medical treatment … I was afraid my pussycat [an affectionate pet name in Russian] would beat the [expletive] out of her," Davis wrote, according to the Times.
If officials wanted to deny the couple a marriage license on the basis of being a same-sex couple, the state would have to recognize Davis's gender as female — or anything other than the binary "male" designation on Davis's identification. But with no legal framework to do so — and no policy forbidding betrothed couples from dressing alike — the registrar ultimately issued the newlyweds a marriage license.
"We arrived at the appointed place at the appointed hour," Davis told England's Daily Mail. "They let in the guests, and a film crew, and they declared us husband and wife, and we exchanged rings. All the staff of the registry office, the couples waiting to marry, and people on the street gave us amused glances."
According to the Times, very little media coverage initially followed the early August nuptials. But when press reports began to trickle out, the threats began to seep in via the Internet. Some messages reportedly accused the couple of "subverting Russia's foundations" and offending those with Orthodox Christian beliefs.
Undeterred, Davis and Brooks are urging others to follow their lead.
"I believe that we have created an important precedent for such a wedding in Russia, for we are not alone in having such problems," Davis told the Times. "I have written to couples who are planning similar marriages and are afraid of failures with registration. Be aware; you can not be refused."