Continuing this piece from VZGLIAD. Where we left off in our story, Pavel and Evgeny, two adult male humans of Russian citizenship, got married in Copenhagen, Denmark, a nation that allows same-sex marriage with the same level of seriousness as “Opposite Marriage”, to borrow a phrase from the lovely Miss California. The happy couple then returned to Russia, presented proof of their union to a Moscow Multi-Functional Registration center, and allegedly a clerk thereupon stamped their passports verifying their status of being married. To each other.
Since Russia does not legally recognize same-sex marriages, even when contracted abroad, this goof would have been just a humorous story for civil servants to crack each other up at the water-cooler. But since homosexuality and same-sex marriage are such a fraught issue in Russia, triggering national paranoia and deep emotions, this one silly provocation blazed out into a national scandal.
As a result of this adolescent stunt, several people have suffered real consequences: The clerk in question and her immediate manager, have been relieved of their employment. Suspicious minds suspected the clerk of being in collusion with the homosexual couple. The other possibility being that she simply got confused when Voitsekhovsky/Stotsko spouted legal mumbo-jumbo at her from the Russian Legal Codex.
Russian marriages are normally registered at an office with the acronym ЗАГС (ZAGS, “Offices for the Registration of Civil Acts“). This is where such acts as births, deaths, marriages, adoptions, name changes, and divorces would be registered. The registration of marriage might also be accompanied by a civil ceremony in a special “palace”, sort of like getting married in Las Vegas, only without Elvis impersonators.
Pavel and Evgeny did not technically register their marriage in the ZAGS, but rather at the “Multi-Functional Center” (MFC), where other types of legal documents are presented. Thus adding to the confusion and later finger-pointing. The management of the MFC, defending the honor of their institution, pointed out that it is not their job to register marriages. Their function is to verify notarized documents and, in the case of a marriage, forward the appropriate paperwork to the ZAGS. They claimed that the story about their clerk legalizing gay marriage “in front of our very eyes” was a myth.
A Stunt Gone Badly Wrong
According to Stotsko, the couple had specifically picked Denmark as the place to tie the knot. On returning to Russia, he and his partner got their marriage registered within ten minutes. Utilizing a loophole within the Family Law Codex of the Russian Federation. According to Article 14, a marriage registered abroad is recognized in Russia provided there are no legal impediments. For example, a marriage would not be recognized if the parties were too closely related to one another genetically; or if one of the parties was underage. Of if there were more than one wife. Russian law even specifies certain mental illnesses to be an impedient. But apparently the Codex does not explicity specify that the couple have to be “opposites”. Hence, this was the loophole that was utilized.
Or is there such a loophole? According to the ZAGS, the Codex has wording to the effect that there must be a “mutual voluntary agreement of a man and a woman”, in order for a marriage to be legal. Hence, this wording alone precludes same-sex marriage.
Whatever the letter of the law, Pavel and Evgeny attempted to slip same-sex marriage into Russia sideways — without doing any of the legwork that preceded such radical social reforms in Europe and the U.S. And they too have paid a heavy price for their stunt: According to Russian Interior Minister Irina Volk, the police have confiscated and annulled the passports of this dynamic duo. The clerk and her manager at the MFC, who suffered disciplinary actions, are in the reporting structure under Ministry of Interior; hence Irina is technically their Big Boss.
Further, I glimpsed headlines of later developments whereon Pavel and Evgeny have fled Russia altogether, most likely back to Europe. They can probably live out their lives just fine in Europe, but they have to ask themselves if their juvenile trick was worth the trouble that it caused to themselves and others? Thank goodness nobody was actually physically harmed, though.
In the next installment, I return to Akopov’s narrative, as he raises the thorny issue: What is Russia to do when her laws conflict with the laws of other nations? And we also re-touch on the geo-political implications, and how gay marriage has been used by the West as a battering ram against Russia. It’s like when your enemy knows exactly which buttons to push, to make you go crazy.
Also, in my finale, I have some thoughts and advice for Russian homosexuals. What they have to do if they want to be, eventually, truly accepted within their own society. Hint: There are no shortcuts in life.
[to be continued]