A Russian same-sex couple who claim to have had their marriage recognised in the country through a legal loophole have been charged with “intentional damage to passports or negligence” by authorities.
Eugene Wojciechowski and Paul Stotzko wed in Denmark earlier this month and returned home to Russia, where their Danish marriage certificate and passports were approved despite same-sex marriage being illegal in their home country.
The couple told an independent Russian TV channel their marital status had been validated by a member of staff “without superfluous questions,” according to The Independent.
The clerk stamped the marital status page in their passports and filled their names in, which the men interpreted as legal recognition of their union.
The couple said the officer who stamped their passports, containing their updated marriage status, “did not even change his expression” when he saw the documents.
But the press office of the Moscow Department of the Interior 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 ($3-7 AUD),” according to Interfax.
Russia does not allow 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”.
The Independent reported the law appears to contain a loophole because while it prohibits marriages between relatives and people who are already married, same-sex unions are not a disqualifying factor.
A line stating the “mutual voluntary consent of the man and woman entering in marriage” is required to validate the union.
A press spokesperson at the office where the couple had their marriage “approved” didn’t say a mistake had been made.
But a spokesperson 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.”
A spokesperson for Russia’s Interior Ministry told RT that the IDs of the couple “have been included on the federal database of invalid passports” and “the employee who committed violations of Russian legislation and her direct supervisor will be dismissed from law enforcement agencies.”
Homosexuality has been legal in Russia since 1993 but homophobia is rife in the country.
In 2013, the country introduced a law banning “gay propaganda” which outlawed the “promotion” of homosexuality to children.
In November, researchers found that crimes against Russia’s LGBTI community had doubled since the introduction of the law.
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