Russia brings charges against same-sex couple who received landmark recognition of marriage

Two men face charges of 'intentional damage to passports or negligence'

Lydia Smith
Saturday 27 January 2018 18:19
Eugene Wojciechowski and Paul Stotzko married in Denmark, Copenhagen
Eugene Wojciechowski and Paul Stotzko married in Denmark, Copenhagen

A Russian same-sex couple who had their marriage recognised after finding an apparent legal loophole have been charged with "intentional damage to passports or negligence".

Eugene Wojciechowski and Paul Stotzko tied the knot in Denmark on 4 January and returned home to Russia, where their documents were stamped and approved, despite same-sex marriage being illegal in the country.

Speaking to the independent Russian channel TV Rain, the couple said their marital status had been validated by a member of staff “without superfluous questions”.

However, the press office of the Moscow Department of the Interior has announced the two men now face charges regarding their documentation, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

“With respect to men who initiated marking in their passports of citizens of the Russian Federation not provided for by the current legislation, cases were brought about administrative offences provided for in Article 19.16 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation,” it announced.

"Article 19.16 of the Administrative Code on 'deliberate damage to documents' entails a warning or an administrative fine in the amount of 100 to 300 rubles," Interfax reported.

Mr Wojciechowski and Mr Stotzko told TV Rain the officer who stamped their passports, which contained their updated marriage status, “did not even change his expression” when he saw their documents.

Russia does not register same-sex marriages, but according to Russian law, marriages conducted abroad are deemed legitimate if there is nothing contradicting “Article 14 of the Family Code”.

Recognition of the couple's marriage

The article appears to contain a loophole as it prohibits marriages between close relatives and people who have already been registered as married, but does not state same-sex unions constitute as a disqualifying factor.

There is a line stating the “mutual voluntary consent of the man and woman entering in marriage” is required to validate the union.

However, the press officer at the Moscow office where Mr Wojciechowski and Mr Stotsko had their marriage approved did not tell TV Rain a mistake had been made.

He said: “Your question would make sense if the Russian Federation’s Family Code used a different formulation, for example, ‘voluntary consent of persons entering into marriage.’”

“Further discussion of your issue I think is inexpedient,” the officer said.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, homophobia is rife.

In 2013, the country introduced a “gay propaganda law” which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality among under 18s, which critics say has incited homophobic violence and stigma.