Fedotova and Others v. Russia

Fedotova and Others v. Russia (application numbers 40792/10, 30538/14 and 43439/14) was a case submitted by six Russian nationals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It was decided on 13 July 2021 in which the Third Chamber ruled unanimously that Russia's refusal to provide any legal recognition to same-sex couples violated the applicants' human rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[1] The court rejected Russia's argument that most Russians disapproved of same-sex marriage, finding that "access to rights for a minority could not be dependent on the acceptance of the majority".[2]


Irina Fedotova at her marriage ceremony in Moscow in 2009

The ECtHR has previously addressed same-sex relationships. In 2010, in the case Schalk and Kopf v. Austria, same-sex couples were recognized as a family unit but there was no obligation on Austria to legally recognize their relationship. In 2013, Vallianatos and Others v. Greece, the court found it was discriminatory for Greece to recognize opposite-sex partnerships but not same-sex ones. In the 2015 case Oliari and Others v. Italy the court found that Italy's lack of any form of legal recognition to same-sex couples breached the applicants' human rights.[3] However, Oliari included elements that reduced its generalizability to other Council of Europe countries.[4][5][6]

The case Fedotova and Others reached the ECtHR through joining three separate applications filed by six Russian nationals who lived in same-sex relationships, the first filed by Irina Fedotova and her partner Irina Shipitko in 2010. The other couples, Mr D. Chunusov and Mr Y. Yevtushenko and Ms I. Shaykhraznova and Ms Y. Yakovleva, filed their cases with the ECtHR in 2014. The couples attempted to obtain marriage licenses but were refused. They did not make a complaint under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to marriage, but rather Article 8, which protects private and family life, as well as Article 14, which prohibits discrimination in the exercise of Convention rights.[1][6]


The chairman of the State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, suggested that the ECtHR judges should resign because of the decision.[7][8] The head of Russia's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Pyotr Tolstoy, said that Russia would not leave the Council of Europe without a "more serious cause".[7][9] Dmitri Bartenev, one of Fedotova's lawyers, wrote after the verdict that it was unlikely Russia would implement it, but that it was possible to do so without any constitutional changes.[10]

At Oxford Human Rights Hub, Stephanos Stavros commented that the judgement "appears to capitalise on the respondent Government’s reluctance to mount a real defence" and hypothesizes that it might represent a return to a more activist approach by the court.[11] In Völkerrechtsblog, Eva Maria Bredler regretted that the court did not consider Article 14, which prohibits discrimination in the exercise of Convention rights. However, she stated that pending cases filed by same-sex couples against Poland would give the court a chance to elaborate on Article 14.[4][12] Natalia Zviagina, director of Amnesty International's Moscow office, said that the "landmark decision underlines that the Russian government is on the wrong side of history".[2]


  1. ^ a b Fedotova and Others v. Russia
  2. ^ a b "European court urges Russia to acknowledge same-sex unions". AP NEWS. 13 July 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  3. ^ Simsek, Cilem (21 September 2016). "Is there a positive obligation on Russia to legalise same-sex unions under the European Convention on Human Rights? The communicated case of Fedotova and Shipitko v. Russia". Voelkerrechtsblog. doi:10.17176/20180522-183115. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  4. ^ a b Bredler, Eva Maria (21 August 2021). "Article 14 ECHR in the Closet". Völkerrechtsblog. doi:10.17176/20210821-112550-0. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  5. ^ Ragone, Sabrina; Volpe, Valentina (2016). "An Emerging Right to a "Gay" Family Life? The Case Oliari v. Italy in a Comparative Perspective". German Law Journal. 17 (3): 451–485. doi:10.1017/S2071832200019830.
  6. ^ a b Poppelwell-Scevak, Claire (5 October 2021). "Here we go again? Is Fedotova and Others just splitting hairs when it comes to same-sex couples?". Strasbourg Observers. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b Savelev, Ilia (18 August 2021). "Political Homophobia and European Court of Human Rights: Russia Is Called to Protect Same-Sex Unions". www.jurist.org. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  8. ^ "Володин предложил судьям ЕСПЧ уйти в отставку из-за призыва к РФ признать однополые браки". ТАСС. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  9. ^ "Толстой считает, что России не следует покидать Совет Европы из-за решения ЕСПЧ". ТАСС. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  10. ^ Bartenev, Dmitri (16 July 2021). "Will Russia Yield to the ECtHR?". Verfassungsblog. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  11. ^ Stavros, Stephanos (31 August 2021). "MA v Denmark and Fedotova and Others v Russia: Judicial Activism in Protecting the Right to Family Life? | OHRH". Oxford Human Rights Hub. Retrieved 25 September 2021.
  12. ^ On Poland same-sex relationship cases see: "Commissioner publishes observations on the absence of legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Poland". Commissioner for Human Rights. 13 November 2020. Retrieved 26 September 2021.

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