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А same-sex Russian couple with two kids, aged 12 and 14, fled the country this summer after being targeted by authorities citing Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law. Their story is a particularly disturbing example of the state doing deep damage to children and families in the name of “child protection” and “traditional values.”

The parents, who have been together for 11 years and registered their marriage in Denmark, adopted the boys nine and seven years ago respectively. Only one of the two men was registered as the adoptive father because in Russia same-sex couples cannot apply for adoption. The family lived in Moscow until their life started unraveling on June 18 this year after the younger boy was hospitalized with suspected appendicitis. When a doctor asked him about his “mom,” the child said he had “two dads.”

The men said on same day the hospital sent a letter to Russia’s chief investigative agency and the Prosecutor General’s Office alleging child abuse linked to the parents’ “non-traditional sexual orientation.” The next day, an investigator invited the adoptive father for a “conversation” about their family life. The couple then left the country with the children, fearing social services might take the boys away.

Moscow's social protection department said they had not received any complaints against the men and case workers from the state guardianship office gave the family a positive evaluation. But on July 17, the case workers for the family were charged with inadequate performance of duties, a criminal offense punishable by up to three months in prison. In the spirit of the “gay propaganda” ban, the investigators stated that the social workers had failed to take action despite knowing that the adoptive father “promoted non-traditional relationships, thus shaping distorted ideas about family values in children’s minds and harming their health, moral and spiritual development.”

On July 19, police in Moscow searched the family’s apartment in their absence and police in Magnitogorsk searched the apartment of relatives.

Maxim Olenichev, legal advisor of the "Coming Out" LGBT group, told Human Rights Watch that it’s not clear which charges, if any, the authorities were planning to bring against the couple. But one thing is clear: the criminal charges against the social workers are meant as a warning to other officials that gay people should be viewed as unfit for parenthood.