Moscow has rejected a new order from Europe's top civil liberties court that would require it to recognize LGBT+ marriages, after a joint complaint from three same-sex Russian couples was upheld by judges in Strasbourg on Tuesday.
In the ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) determined that Russian law, which defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, breached the right to private and family life enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights in respect to the claimants. As a result, the decision, issued by a panel of seven judges drawn from nations across the continent, obliges the country to legislate for recognition of LGBT+ marriages. The Court also awarded €2,200 in costs to the claimants.
The case relates in part to the immigration status of one foreign citizen, who moved to the town of Sosnogorsk in the Komi Republic region of northern Russia to co-habit with his partner and their son. When his application for a new residency permit was rejected in 2013 over incomplete paperwork, he complained that requiring him to leave the country and re-enter on temporary visa terms would cause disruption for his family and breach his fundamental rights. These rights, the ECHR found, were ignored because his relationship is not formalized in Russia.
However, one member of the panel, Cypriot judge Georgios A. Serghides wrote a dissenting opinion, attached to the ruling, in which he said that "I am unable to contribute to opening Pandora’s box by giving the impression that the Court may allow applicants to disobey or disrespect laws, regulations and equitable principles and thereafter try to have their behaviour condoned and seek the protection of the Court."
Responding to the court's decision later on Tuesday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that implementing such legal changes was out of the question. "According to our constitution, it is impossible," the official declared.
Constitutional amendments passed after a nationwide vote last year have a specific clause committing the state to protecting "the institution of marriage as a union of a man and a woman." In addition, the package of changes affirms the principle that Russian law must take precedence over decisions made by judges abroad, despite it being a member of the ECHR.
Defending that position, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “the requirements of international law and treaties, as well as decisions of international bodies, can act on the territory of Russia only to the extent that they do not entail restrictions on the rights and liberties of man and citizen, and do not contradict our constitution.”
In February, the ECHR ruled that jailed opposition activist Alexey Navalny must be freed from prison "with immediate effect," citing a supposed "risk to his life." The country's Ministry of Justice, however, slammed the decision as "unenforceable," and said it amounted to "gross interference in the activities of the judiciary of a sovereign state."
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