LGBT rights activists in Russia are celebrating after two brides were officially permitted to marry each other in St. Petersburg — to the ire of conservative politicians.
Despite Russia's ban on same-sex marriage, the wedding of Irina Shumilova and Alyona Fursova was permitted because Shumilova was born male.
Shumilova — who told RT she identifies as transsexual, rather than transgender — is in the process of gender reassignment surgery, but is still listed as male on her passport.
The couple were married Friday at the official registry office in St. Petersburg among friends and loved ones. Both wore white dresses and carried floral bouquets.
"This is a big step for all of us," Marina Theodori, who witnessed the wedding ceremony, told BuzzFeed News in a statement. "Most of us dream of having a formal marriage, but in Russia it was not possible yet. For us it is the realization of our dreams. Hopefully soon we will have more opportunities."
Activists said the registry's employees "displayed a tolerant attitude to the two brides during the ceremony."
But LGBT rights opponent and politician Vitaly Milonov said the wedding was ”an ugly insult to millions of Russian families,” the BBC reported.
Milonov, who is a member of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly, is calling for the registry staff to be tried for treason and criminal negligence.
"There are certain moral standards which it is vital to implement," Milonov said. "These mad people should be banned altogether from getting married."
The conservative lawmaker has been an ardent supporter of Russia's recent crackdown on the LGBT community, including a law that bans LGBT propaganda.
But Russian LGBT rights activist Andrew Nasonov, who is based in Washington, D.C., told BuzzFeed News that Milonov is "a crazy person."
"Unfortunately, the majority of Russians don't take such news seriously," Nasonov said. "They believe these people are freaks, so they laugh or insult them. They support Milonov. It's very sad.
"But the fact that having such news, people start speaking about it, it starts the public debate, and this is good."
David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.
Contact David Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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