Users of Russia’s leading social network, Vkontakte.ru (also known as VK.com), can now list a person of the same sex as their partner under the rubric ‘family situation.’
Previously the company repeatedly refused to allow same-sex partner status.
The move – a personal decision by site founder Pavel Durov – is particularly notable in a country that is increasingly criminalising any positive mentions of LGBT issues as ‘homosexual propaganda.’
The decision came after a network user named Oleg – one of Vkontakte’s 150 million user – sent a request to the site’s technical support to let him mention his male partner on his profile.
The site staff rejected his demands and said same-sex partner status would not be allowed.
Instead it suggested that Oleg 'change his sex,' referring to the Russian legislation which does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The website’s response have sparked anger from many in Russia’s LGBT community.
In response Oleg revealed this alleged site-user discrimination to the press and to the Rainbow Association (Raduzhnaya Assotsiatsiya), a Moscow-based LGBT NGO.
An appeal to Vkontakte’s management on Oleg’s behalf was initially answered by the site’s press service with an uncompromising rejection: no same-sex couple status could be introduced, the company’s statement asserted, either then or in the future.
However, later the same day, Durov responded to the appeal differently in a tweet: ‘Don’t worry, you’ll get what you want.’
The change was introduced the next day – followed by a wave of homophobic comments on the social network and elsewhere.
‘By agreeing to the demands of degenerates, [Pavel Durov] is suggesting that children revise their sexual orientation,’ blogged Vitaly Milonov, a member of parliament from the ruling United Russia party, referring to the fact that a significant fraction of Vkontakte users are under 18.
‘I am not sure that certain Vkontakte shareholders will appreciate this kind of atheism,’ he added.
In June Facebook, the popular social networking site, introduced same-sex marriage status icons: one depicting two brides, the other two grooms.