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Lesbian Couple Battle Russian Courts


In a high-profile same-sex marriage case in Moscow that has sparked outrage and protests from people on both sides of the issue, on Wednesday a court held up a Russian lesbian couple's appeal of their being denied the right to marry.

Irina Shipitko and her partner Irina Fedotova-Fet, who have been together for five years, made international headlines in May as they were denied a marriage license on the grounds that the Russian Family Code permits marriage only between a man and a woman. On Wednesday a judge postponed a hearing on their case, saying they failed to appear; the couple, arriving after the hearing ended, said they were delayed by traffic, and they met with the media outside the courtroom.

The couple have brought the movement for marriage equality to light of in their country.

Shipitko told the Associated Press that the authorities "are using any excuse" to deny them any form of recognition.

"There is enough homophobia in this country," she said. "We are no different from any other couple."

The couple plan to fly to Toronto -- where same-sex marriage is legal -- to wed, which puts them in position to take advantage of a loophole in their laws that does not prevent the recognition of same-sex marriages performed abroad.

Homosexuality was legalized in Russia in 1993, and the ban on blood donations by gay men was lifted in April 2008. But the country has no antidiscrimination laws covering LGBT people, and many politicians, including Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, oppose marriage equality. Luzhkov once referred to gay people as "satanic," and he has banned any gay parades in the Russian capital.

Toronto-based human rights lawyer El-Farouk Khaki, who specializes on LGBT rights and has worked on Russian cases in the past, says the situation in Russia and Eastern Europe is interesting for a number of reasons.

"The strategy may have changed, but the hate has not," Khaki said from Toronto. "Now there are gay bars in cities like Moscow but you can't leave at night because you face the risk of being attacked by skinheads and gangs while the cops do nothing."

"The 'morality' standards only apply to [LGBT people] and not heterosexuals."

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