Gay parents forced to leave Russia due to ‘gay propaganda law’
Gay parents from Russia were forced to leave their home country after they said authorities threatened to take their two adopted children into custody.
Andrei Vaganov and Evgeny Erofeyev, who were legally married in Denmark in 2016, said this month they fled Russia after they became the target of a criminal investigation for raising their two sons, Denis and Yuri, ages 12 and 14.
Although Vaganov adopted the boys before he was married to Erofeyev, Russian officials said the adoption violated the country’s “gay propaganda law” passed in 2013 that forbids teaching children about LGBTQ+ issues.
Russian authorities learned the gay couple had two sons when Yuri was rushed to a hospital in June complaining of stomach pains. He told the medical staff he had two fathers, prompting investigators to open a case about the boy being possibly molested, Vaganov told Deutsche Welle, a German media company.
An investigation was also opened into the social workers for allowing the boys to live with a gay couple. An adoption agency representative asked the couple to voluntarily give up the children, leading Vaganov’s attorney to tell him he and the children needed to leave Russia.
“Less than two hours later, Yuri and I packed our things and left Russia. Shortly afterward we also took Denis out of the country,” he told Deutsche Welle.
Erofeyev left Russia more than a week later.
Vaganov said he never asked the children to deny they had two fathers.
“I also never said that we are a special family. I just said that there are different kinds of families,” he said.
Vaganov said he also could be charged with murdering his children because he refused to bring them to Russian authorities.
“Several lawyers have confirmed that the authorities could take the children away from me,” he told Deutsche Welle. “They would then be handed over to psychologists. And on the basis of these conversations with the children, the authorities could then, for example, initiate proceedings for the use of violence.
“I left the country for two reasons,” he added. “Firstly because of the idea that my children could end up in an orphanage. Secondly, because I was told directly that I would, in any case, be arrested for seducing minors.”
Human Rights Watch, an international non-governmental agency that tracks global human rights abuses and conducts research and advocacy, released a report last year stating Russia’s “gay propaganda law” harms LGBTQ+ youth.
The formal name of the law is “aimed at protecting children from information promoting the denial of traditional family values” and bans the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” such as LGBTQ+ relationships.
The ban includes information provided via the press, television, radio and the internet.
Human Rights Watch states in its report Russia’s anti-gay law has been used to shut down websites that provided resources to LGBTQ+ youth. The law has also played a role in an uptick of violent attacks against LGBTQ+ people in a country already hostile toward LGBTQ+ people.