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LGBTQ Inmates Wed in Cyprus Prison, Making History in European Union

Kevork Tontian and Wemson Gabral da Costa
Kevork Tontian and Wemson Gabral da Costa

Kevork Tontian and Wemson Gabral da Costa fell in love and tied the knot behind bars.

Kevork Tontian and Wemson Gabral da Costa have made LGBTQ history in the European Union.

The Associated Press reports that the pair have become the second same-sex couple to marry inside a correctional facility within an E.U. member country -- in this case, Cyprus.

The AP refers to both Tontian and Da Costa as men. However, Da Costa -- who is undergoing hormone therapy at a Cyprus hospital and considering a gender-confirmation procedure -- may identify as transgender.

Tontian, a 34-year-old Cypriot, was released two years ago from the prison complex in the country's capital, Nicosia. However, his love for Da Costa -- a 30-year-old Brazilian he met there -- drove him to commit another crime to return behind bars.

"We dare, we dare, we asked. There is no shame. Love has no shame," Tontian said at a press conference at the facility following the ceremony.

Tontian, a former heroin addict, had initially committed a drug-related crime. He has been clean for five years. Da Costa was arrested at an airport for being a drug mule in order to pay a sick grandmother's medical expenses.

Tontian and Da Costa first met at a bingo game for prisoners. Their relationship grew after they marched together (under supervision) in the Cyprus Pride parade and later worked together in the institution's archive. Eventually, they became cellmates. Sympathetic guards transferred away fellow inmates who harassed them for their relationship.

With the help of the director of Cyprus Prisons, Gabral da Costa and Tontian engaged in a civil union last week in front of staff and a few friends who are inmates. (Marriage equality is not currently recognized in the Mediterranean nation, but civil unions have been legal since 2015.) The couple will be released at the same time in June, at which point they intend to permanently reside in Cyprus.

Both Tontian and da Costa have experienced family rejection due to their LGBTQ identity. However, they hope their union will inspire other inmates to follow their hearts.

"Parents won't be with us our whole lives, at some point the parents will leave," Tontian said. "They should do it, they should dare. If they lose their family, so be it. At some point the family will regret it."

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