Russian Deputy Edvard Murzin and Ed Mishin, director of "Together", Russia's largest gay-rights group
2006/02/16. Perhaps the best illustration of the hopelessness of Russia's gay-marriage campaign happened on a dry, warm day in early August, when Edvard Murzin, a member of parliament in the republic of Bashkortostan, stood outside a maternity ward and talked to journalists about the birth of his baby girl.
Mr. Murzin is the only politician in Russia who openly champions the idea of same-sex matrimony, but instead of defending the concept he usually ends up defending himself: his reputation as a politician, his small business and even his truthfulness about his sexuality.
His long fight for same-sex marriage laws in Russia has failed so badly that his story is almost farcical.
Prominent gay-rights activists say his mission is doomed. Even among his friends in Ufa's small gay community, the drag queens shake their heads sadly when asked about his efforts.
His failure shows how Russian attitudes about homosexuality have barely improved since the Soviet laws forbidding gay sex were abolished in 1993. If anything, the Kremlin's embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church as a pillar of state has made life even more difficult for gay-rights campaigners.
Mr. Murzin launched his quixotic campaign two years ago, shortly after winning election to the regional legislature in Bashkortostan, a semi-autonomous republic in the shadow of the Ural Mountains. He was already well known as publisher of a local newspaper in his town, 300 kilometres southwest of Ufa, and his successful election campaign focused on his interest in human rights.
After taking office, a gay couple approached him. "They said, 'We voted for you. Why don't you protect our rights?' " Mr. Murzin said. Mr. Murzin wanted to pursue the issue through the legislature and courts. He drafted a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage, but it died in committee before reaching parliament. He applied to the Moscow city court, the Moscow district court, the Russian supreme court, and finally Russia's constitutional court. Each one denied the application or refused to hear the case. He has filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights, but it has yet to respond.
In Moscow, Mr. Mishin says the regional parliamentarian's actions are brave but the law won't change in his lifetime.Still, the consensus among a recent gathering of young gay men at an apartment in Ufa was that life is slowly getting better for homosexuals.
A man was overheard in the audience complaining, "Look how many gays came tonight!" Somebody replied, "Oh, shut up."