Couple Who Fled Russia’s Anti-LGBTQ Laws Remarries After Reuniting in Minnesota: 'Deeply Touched'

Erik and Ivan Beda, who were forced to get divorced after Erik came out as transgender, left Russia in December 2023 to escape the country’s crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community

<p>GoFundMe</p> From Left: Ivan and Erik Beda


From Left: Ivan and Erik Beda

A couple recently reunited in Minnesota and have since gotten remarried after they fled Russia and got separated by customs.

Erik and Ivan Beda, who first got married in 2006, left Russia on Dec. 23, 2023 to escape the country’s crackdown on the LGBTQ+ community after Erik came out as a transgender man, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Because of Russian law, two men cannot legally get married, Erik told the outlet. And as a result, he and Ivan were forced to get divorce in 2012 after he began transitioning.

After leaving the country, the two ultimately wound up in Mexico City. Two months later, they tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border into Arizona, where they were detained by customs and processed individually, per the Pioneer Press and MPR News.

However, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) did not keep Erik in detention, his friend, John Pundsack, told the outlets. After his release in March, Erik was provided travel to Minneapolis where he met Pundsack, who was called upon by Travelers Assistance to help him upon his arrival.

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Pundsack and his husband, Joe Briol, later started a GoFundMe campaign for Erik and Ivan, who was still being held in an ICE processing center, in hopes of raising the funds to help afford the new life they were chasing, the outlets reported. (As of Tuesday, July 2, the campaign has raised $18,330 of its $22,000 goal.)

After more than two months apart, Ivan was released from a Georgia detention center, according to MPR News. He and Erik finally reunited on June 1 at the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, where several individuals gathered to witness the heartwarming reunion.

“I was very surprised and deeply touched by everything,” Ivan, who landed in Minnesota just after 12:30 a.m, told the Pioneer Press. “It was so nice and so sweet. I still feel very awkward. I am not used to such nice and kind attention from people.”

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At the end of Pride month, on June 25, the couple were remarried in a small ceremony in front of the Bell of Two Friends sculpture on Nicollet Island, according to MPR News.

Erik said the sculpture has special meaning to him. “I made a wish that Ivan would be here with me,” Erik said, per the outlet. “I put three pine cones under this arch and rang the bell.”

"We started June 1 with Ivan arriving in Minnesota, which we thought, 'Perfect. Pride month. He’s here. We’re united,' " Pundsack told the outlet. “And now here we are, the week of Pride coming up and they get married... And that’s what Pride is, you know. Love wins."

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Now, the couple is staying in a hotel while they search for housing, which has come with its share of obstacles. “The problem is they don’t have references, and they can’t get jobs because they need work permits, but you can’t get a work permit until you file your asylum papers,” Pundsack told the Pioneer Press.

Supporters are also hoping Erik’s asylum hearing for April 2025 can be combined with Ivan’s court date on July 23, the outlet reported.

“I want to say how grateful I am to all of the people who have helped me — people who sent money and people who directly helped us, even to those people who just had good thoughts about us,” Ivan said, per the Press Pioneer, while Erik added, “It all seems unreal to me.”

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