Russia's Leading Social Network Says No To Gay Relationship Status

By Claire Bigg
August 02, 2012
VKontatke, Russia's largest social network, is under fire from the homosexual community after saying it would not allow users to indicate in their profile that they are in a same-sex relationship.
The controversy erupted after a male VKontake user who identified himself only as Oleg wrote to the network's administrators for help after being unable to select the option "I have a boyfriend" in the section describing his relationship status.
He was reportedly told that gay marriages were banned in Russia and advised to "change sex" online. The administrator went on to wish him a "wonderful mood," according to press reports.
This has earned the ire of many from Russia's gay and lesbian community.
"They are not violating Russian law by doing this," says Nikolai Alekseyev, a leading Russian gay rights campaigner. "But from a moral and ethical point of view, considering that a huge number of gays and lesbians support this network, use it and help it make money, they should recognize such relationships."
VKontakte press secretary Vladislav Tsypluhin has since confirmed that it is not planning to introduce same-sex relationship status.
An RFE/RL request for an interview with a VKontakte representative went unanswered.
Gay activists have found VKontatke's handling of the situation and its sarcastic tone deeply offensive.
Widespread Hostility
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, hostility against gays and lesbians remains widespread in Russia.
Attempts to hold gay pride marches have been consistently crushed, and several Russian cities recently adopted new legislation criminalizing homosexual propaganda -- a vague term that many fear will be used to crack down on Russia's already marginalized homosexual community.
Some Russian gay activists have ended their membership of VKontakte.
Some activists have called on homosexual VKontakte users to protest by adding a pink triangle, a symbol of the battle for gay rights, to their profile picture or switching to the more gay-friendly Facebook.
Facebook not only allows users to indicate that they are homosexuals on their profile page, it has even recently added marriage icons depicting two grooms or two brides.
One of the reasons for Facebook's liberal stance on the issue may be that co-founder Chris Hugues himself is openly gay. He was one of the first to use the new icon after marrying his boyfriend in June.
Oleg, meanwhile, has left VKontakte and is happily "in a relationship" with his boyfriend on Facebook.