European Court of Human Rights refuses to hear sham marriage case

12 November 2008

European Court of Human Rights Rejects Right to Sham Same-Sex Marriage in Russia

Russian gay activists are not surprised by the outcome

It became known on Wednesday 12 November that the European Court of Human Rights denied to consider on merits the application of Russian human rights activist and former deputy of Bashkortostan parliament Edward Murzin against the ban of same-sex marriages in Russia as contradictory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

In its letter to the applicant the European Court said that “on 13 June 2008 European Court of Human Rights, acting as a Committee of three judges (K. Hajiyev, chairman, S.E. Jebens and G. Nicolaou) in accordance with Article 27 of the Convention, decided on the basis of Article 28 of the Convention to pronounce the above mentioned application unacceptable, because it is not in accordance with the requirement set forth in Articles 34 and 35 of the Convention”.

The letter reads that “in accordance with the materials of the case, which the Court has at its disposal, as well as the degree, to which the complaints are in Court’s competence, the Court decided that they do not contain violations of the rights and liberties, set forth in the Convention and its Protocols”.

Decision of the European Court in the case of Murzin v. Russia is final and can not be appealed to Court, including the Grand Chamber, or any other instance.

Edward Murzin and Eduard Mishin

Edward Murzin and Eduard Mishin

In January 2005 human rights activist Edward Murzin, then deputy of the Bashkortostan parliament, and the owner of the site Gay.Ru Eduard Mishin attempted to register their same-sex union in one of Moscow’s registration offices. Organizers of the action said that it was deemed to fight against discrimination of people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

After getting a denial to register marriage on the basis of Russian family legislation, Mr. Murzin appealed it in Russian courts and then sent his complaint against Russia to the European Court of Human Rights.

Currently Edward Murzin, who at the time of the attempt to register same-sex marriage denied he was gay, is in heterosexual marriage with two children – 3-year old daughter Alla and 1-month old son Edward.

Head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru and chief organizer of Moscow Pride Nikolai Alekseev said on Wednesday that he is not at all surprised by the decision of the European Court. He stressed that “I predicted such destiny of this case in 2005, right after the theatrical performance of the attempt to register same-sex marriage”.

Nikolai Alekseev said: “I have big respect for Edward Murzin, who took part in Moscow Pride events in 2006 and 2007, but the project of same-sex marriage legalization in Russia through this way was deemed to failure from its start. European Court deals with human rights breaches and the rights of Mr. Murzin were not breached by anyone in this case. He said from the very beginning that his marriage with Mr. Mishin is a sham and is only done to fight for the rights of sexual minorities. Thus, Strasbourg court was right that it did not consider Mr. Murzin a victim of the human rights violations”.

Organizer of Moscow Pride reminded that “apart from heterosexuality of Mr. Murzin there were other obstacles for the court perspectives of the case. His groom, Mr. Mishin, came to the registration office without passport and tried to register his same-sex marriage under his pseudonym which is not allowed under Russian family law. It is clear that the applicants buried any chances for the positive court decisions in their case on the day they applied for marriage certificate”.

Nikolai Alekseev said that his human rights organization is always ready to represent genuine gay and lesbian couples who want to get their family and marriage rights respected by the state. Such cases can be successfully taken up to the European Court of Human Rights.

Strasbourg-based court has never admitted the right of same-sex couples to marry under European Convention. There are several application waiting their consideration in the Court, including one from the French gay couple who married in the town of Begle next to Bordeaux.


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