The First Russian Same-Sex Marriage Has Been Registered in St. Petersburg

Russian Family Law on Same-Sex Marriages

Despite the prohibition by the Russian law, the first same-sex marriage has been recently registered in Russia. 7 November 2014 Irina and Alyona officially married in Russia’s St. Petersburg. The brides arrived at the registry office (#ZAGS)  both in wedding gowns holding flowers to sign the papers that marked the official start of their new family.

Amidst the wide-spread anti-gay propaganda, and ever toughening legal regulations regarding same-sex relationships in Russia the couple was able to take advantage of a loophole in the Russian law prohibiting same-sex marriages.  Russian-same-sex-marriage

Generally, the Russian law does not provide for same-sex marriage or civil partnership. Marriage is the union of a woman and a man [section 1 (2) of the Russian Family Code]. Luckily for the couple, one of them is not officially a woman. In her passport Irina is a male. She was born a male. Psychologically, however, she is a woman and a very pretty one too. Irina is a transgender person currently undergoing sex reassignment hormone therapy.

The story attracted media publicity and evolved into a scandal with St. Petersburg MP Vitaly Milonov, known for his anti-LGBT drive, vowing to launch a probe to check the legality of the marriage.

 Russian-gay-marriage Milonov accused the registry office workers of a ‘formal approach to the issue’ and ‘criminal negligence’ He went as far as calling such actions as ‘treason’ and promised to get prosecutors involved. The National Union launched a campaign in support of the marriage annulment.


However, formally the marriage has been entered into in full compliance with the Russian law and technically there are no grounds for its annulment. While amendments to the Family Code is a matter for the Federal Parliament, Vitaly Milonov suggested to introduce a strict dress code in St. Petersburg prohibiting parties to cross-dress.

Regardless of the public opinion, for the newlyweds, who consider themselves the first married LGBT couple, their dreams came true.

Cohabitation and De Facto Relationships Under Russian Law

Cohabitation of same-sex couples does not have any legal consequences. De facto relationship is generally not a legal concept in Russian Law regardless of its nature.

Same-sex or other de facto couples cannot adopt under the Russian law [section 127 of the Russian Family Code]. Moreover, when it comes to foreign adoptions, even married couples from the countries where same-sex marriage are permitted are banned from adopting Russian children.

This would not be an impediment for Irina and Alyona, officially married as a husband and wife.

Russian Family Code on the Recognition of a Foreign Marriage

What other avenues could a same-sex couple use to get the recognition of their married status under the Russian law? Could they marry abroad? Section 158 (1) of the Russian Family Code prescribes the recognition as valid of marriages concluded abroad in compliance with the law of the respective state as long as there are no bars to marriage listed in Section 14 of the Russian Family Code.

While the same sex is not listed in the section, it is highly unlikely that such a marriage will have an effect in Russia. Since the adoption of the new Family Code in Russia in 1996 which replaced the Soviet Marital Code of 1964, it has undergone a number of major amendments. However, the position of Russian law in respect of same-sex marriages remains rigid.

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