A queer couple who met in prison just got a civil union behind bars.
Kevork Tontian, 34, and Wemson Gabral da Costa, 30, met years ago in a prison in Cyprus, during a prison bingo night. The two got closer and started participating in prison activities together. They even both got jobs at the prison archives.
They were allowed to march in Cyprus’s Pride parade together, under supervision.
Tontian, a former heroin addict, landed in jail in 2015 on a drug-related charge, and he was released two years ago. He told the AP that when he got out of prison he was clean, but he had to face his family’s rejection because he’s gay and had trouble finding a job.
Da Costa had two more years of prison. Originally from Brazil, they were rejected by their family after coming out as gay. They started doing sex work and someone offered to pay for their grandmother’s medical expenses in exchange for smuggling drugs into Cyprus.
They were arrested at the airport upon arriving on the island and was sentenced to five years behind bars.
So Tontian said that he broke the law so that he’d be arrested and get to live with Da Costa again. He was released a year later, and he got himself sent back to prison again.
“We dare, we dare, we asked,” he said. “There is no shame. Love has no shame.”
While they have faced some harassment from other inmates, the couple was able to get a civil union in prison. Cyprus does not recognize marriage equality, and since both Tontian and Da Costa are considered men under the law, they could not get married.
But prison officials got them the paperwork they needed for the civil union, set up a ceremony that was attended by some of their friends in jail, even got them a wedding cake.
They are both set to be released in June, and they plan to stay in Cyprus.
While the AP says that this is the second same-sex civil union known to take place in prison in the European Union, Da Costa is undergoing hormone therapy as part of a transition.