After it has recognized a gay marriage for the first time weeks ago, Russian authorities, in a seemingly swift decision, are now charging “intentional damage to passports or negligence” against couple Eugene Wojciechowski and Paul Stotzko.
On January 4, or just barely three weeks ago, Wojciechowski and Stotzko tied the knot in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to a report by the Independent. After the ceremony, the two, along with their notarized Danish registration forms, went home to Russia to have their marriage page of their passports updated.
The two originally had planned to go through legal battles to have their marriage be recognized in their country, according to a report by Gay Pop Buzz. To their shock, however, the Russian office where they went was more than willing to stamp their passports.
Russian law explicitly said that weddings conducted abroad are legitimate if there is nothing preventing the conclusion of marriage specified in Article 14 of the Family Code. This particular rule, according to the couple, bore a loophole which they have taken advantage of. They said that this law did not state that same-sex unions constitute a disqualifying factor, per a Pink News report. What is only required is voluntary consent, the law states.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, however, the press office of the Moscow Department of the Interior, days after it recognized the union, has announced that the couple now faces charges regarding their documentation, as confirmed by Interfax, Russia’s news agency.
“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.”
The document added that Article 19.16 of Russia’s Administrative Code “deliberate damage to documents” entails a warning or an administrative fine amounting to 100 to 300 rubles.
With this ruling and crackdown, the couple decided to flee the country fearing for their lives. In fact, last Monday police came to their flat located in downtown Moscow and tried to break the door, per a Pink News separate report. The police also blocked the exits, barring anyone from leaving or entering the flat, and even turned off the lights and internet for several hours.
The couple, moreover, was told that they could not leave their home unless they give up their passports, and if they do not they will be charged with resisting police authorities.
Russian LGBT Network leader Igor Kochetkov said that this move is clearly harassment to the couple. He added that the couple’s decision to leave Russia is warranted.
“The police officers declared openly that they could not protect [the pair] from attacks from homophobically-minded citizens and organizations. This was a hidden threat. Therefore the decision was made that for now, they must leave Russia.”
Despite this apparent attack on the couple, Kochetkov noted that this will not dishearten the LGBT sector in Russia and they will continue to fight for their rights. Friends and supporters, meanwhile, have started an online mobilization where they send well wishes to the couple.