Maria and Alexandra vaguely considered leaving Russia for several years, but it was not until this year’s anti-gay legislation that they started to gather paperwork.
The quiet, academic lesbian couple, who live with a seven-year-old daughter in the outskirts of Moscow, have now lost hope that Russia is moving in the direction of Europe, where same-sex marriages are increasingly legalised despite opposition from conservatives.
“Before, there was hope that everything would improve, but instead the trend has reversed. I hope that we will leave,” said Maria, 31 who has a daughter Lilya from a short-lived marriage that she is now raising with her partner of six years, Alexandra, 30.
Earlier this year President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning the dissemination of “gay propaganda” to minors, which has already prompted an international outcry and even calls for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the Winter Olympics.
In practice, the law means that anyone in Russia can be fined for telling children that homosexual and heterosexual relationships are equal. This “really speeded us up” in wanting to leave the country, Maria said.
Everyone interviewed by AFP for this article requested that only first names are used, and some asked that even the first names are changed, in order to keep their identity secret.
The women have started an application process for residency in Canada, where Alexandra, a research scientist, qualifies as a young professional and can bring the whole family of three over under the country’s conditions for same-sex couples.
The gay propaganda law is just the beginning, they said, pointing out recent remarks by lawmaker Yelena Mizulina that the state should have the right to take children out of homosexual families.
Mizulina has said the family committee she is chairing in the Duma lower house is writing a new family policy based on “traditional” values like registered heterosexual marriage and refusal of abortions.