- OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images
- A gay couple in Russia was forced to flee the country after being accused of breaking the country’s controversial “gay propaganda law” for telling their two children they are married.
- Under the law, which was passed in 2013, teaching minors about LGBTQ issues is considered illegal.
- Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case last month accusing officials of negligence for allowing the couple to adopt their two children.
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A Russian couple was forced to flee the country because they told their two adopted sons that they are married.
As far-fetched as that may sound, the story is true – simply because they are gay.
Andrei Vaganov and Evgeny Erofeyev, who were married in Denmark, had been raising their two teenage boys for nearly a decade without issue. That all changed when their youngest son was hospitalized for stomach issues and told doctors that he didn’t have a mother, but two fathers.
That revelation prompted Russia to accuse the couple of breaking the country’s controversial “gay propaganda law,” which passed in 2013 (after the boys were adopted) and makes teaching minors about LGBTQ issues a crime.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the law has led to increased hostility toward Russia’s gay community and a lack of resources for LGBTQ youth, many of whom told the organization they feel increasingly isolated.
Ivan Golunov, an investigative journalist with the independent Russian-language news outlet Meduza, interviewed the couple, according to Buzzfeed News. Vaganov said he adopted his oldest son, Denis, in 2009, followed by his second son, Yuri, two and a half years later.
Around that time, Vaganov met and later married Erofeyev in Denmark, where same-sex marriage is legal.
A same-sex couple was forced to flee after Russian authorities threatened to take away their children. https://t.co/VMZxstdKvN
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) August 13, 2019
After Yuri told staff at the hospital about his two fathers, Vaganov was notified that he would need to report to police for questioning. But what began as a “preinvestigation check” led to Yuri being ordered to undergo a physical exam to rule out the possibility of abuse.
Then, news articles about the couple’s case surfaced, claiming a gay couple had raped a child. Denis, Vaganov and Erofeyev’s elder son, was also called in to be interviewed.
After authorities suggested that Yuri be turned over to a state-owned rehabilitation center during the investigation, the couple decided to leave the country, according to BuzzFeed. After they left, investigators demanded they turn themselves in for questioning.
“We never asked our children to hide anything,” Vaganov told Meduza. “This was our conscious position, explaining why is it somehow stigmatizing and so on.”
While there are no official charges brought against Vaganov and Erofeyev, Russia’s Investigative Committee did launch a criminal case last month accusing officials of negligence for allowing the couple to adopt their two children.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Maksim Olenichev, an attorney with the group Vykhod (Coming Out) told AFP, adding that while the case doesn’t affect the family, if the officials are found guilty, “it could give the state the opportunity to demand the annulment of the adoption.”
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