Inside the Iron Closet
On Tuesday, May 12, two women attempted, in the face of almost certain failure, to become the first same sex-couple in Russia to legally marry. LGBT rights activists, as well as the gay community in Russia, have been met with antipathy and hostility in the past so, it came as little surprise to the two when their request was denied. Not only have activists been violently attacked, according to the New York Times, state officials have assigned the gay community blame for the spread of HIV. Instead of receiving a marriage license yesterday, the couples’ attention was directed to Article 12 of the family codex, which specifically articulates that marriage is only legally sanctioned between a man and a woman. The pair will be appealing the outcome.
One might ask why, in the face of such antagonism, these women would make such a bold statement of political protest. However, this move was not meant to serve as one isolated statement but rather as the pretext to a much bigger effort on the part of LGBT rights activists in Russia. They were helping to construct the political opportunity for a protest set to take place in Moscow on Saturday in conjunction with the Eurovision final, which will take place in the same city. The two women, along with many others, are employing protest politics to combat the state’s influence on an area of the social life not historically seen as political. While the LGBT community of Russia is not likely to achieve legal equality through this one collective action, there is still much they can hope to achieve. David S. Meyer explains, “Movement activists aspire to change not only specific policies but also broad cultural and institutional structures; they therefore can affect far more than their explicitly articulated targets.” So, while policy changes may still be a long way off for Moscow, the participants in such protests are taking major strides in the transformation of the Russian social and political culture.