Irina Fedotova & Irina Shipitko (Pic: Marriage Equality Russia)

The Russian Ministry of Justice has turned down an application by gay and lesbian activists to register a group campaigning for same-sex marriage rights.

“Your organisation cannot be registered on the basis that its aims contradict the law of NGOs and provisions of the family code, which define marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” the Ministry said in a letter to the board of Marriage Equality Russia.

“We asked today the Russian justice to reverse this illegal decision, and we will go all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary,” the board said in a statement in response.

Marriage Equality Russia is backed by various Moscow and St Petersburg LGBT groups as well as individuals, including a number of heterosexuals.

The group’s campaign has been running since last May when it helped a lesbian couple to apply for a marriage license in Moscow. After being refused by the Civil Registrar, the couple travelled to Canada and were married last October in Toronto.

The couple is now about to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after the Russian justice twice upheld the denial.

“This campaign is not only about my marriage with Irina [Shipitko],” said one of the women, Irina Fedotova, who is also a board member of Marriage Equality Russia.

“We want to contribute to help open the way to marry to other gays and lesbians – and not only in Russia,” she added.

In October, a group of UN experts found that the breach of rights of LGBT people in Russia is “systematic”. The country has come under fire for the repeated banning of gay Pride events in cities such as Moscow.

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