Same-sex partners have residency rights across Europe, declared The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday. The Union’s supreme court, located in Luxembourg, has the power to rule over individual countries’ national courts in matters of EU legislation, which is exactly what it did in the case of Romanian gay man Adrian Coman and his American partner Claibourn Robert Hamilton, who was denied residency in Romania.
Conservative and Catholic Romania, where homosexuality was decriminalised as late as 2002, is one of six EU states where both same-sex marriages and partnerships are illegal, the others being Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia. However, in its important ruling the ECJ stated that all member states must recognise the rights of all married couples to free movement regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. This is a clear victory to the LGBT community all over Europe, a strong signal against same-sex discrimination.
Romanița Iordache, Vice-President of Accept (Romanian gay rights organisation): “Starting from this moment onward, Romanian authorities now have an obligation to respect the [European Court of Justice] decision, and ensure residency rights and minimal recognition for all same-sex families in a similar situation.”
The case goes as follows: having lived together in the US for several years, Coman and Hamilton got married in Brussels, Belgium in 2010. Adrian Coman worked for the European Parliament, also located in Brussels, for some time, but after his contract ended, the couple wished to relocate to Coman’s home country of Romania. The local authorities, however, denied his American husband the right to stay, arguing that he wasn’t considered a spouse as Romania doesn’t recognise gay marriage. However, the European Court of Justice, where the case had been referred to by the Romanian state after the disappointed couple appealed the initial decision, said that the term “spouse” was gender neutral and that the freedom of movement – one of the Union’s founding principles – applied to all its citizens no matter what their sexual orientation.
“We can now look in the eyes of any public official in Romania and across the EU with certainty that our relationship is equally valuable and equally relevant,” Mr. Coman said after the ruling. “We are grateful to the EU Court and to the many people and institutions who have supported us, and through us, other same-sex couples in a similar situation,” he said, adding: “It is human dignity that wins today.”Clai Hamilton, Coman’s husband, also weighed in via video link from New York: “We are one step closer to being recognised as a family and I am truly elated.” So are we.
Same-sex legislation within the European Union:
- Same-sex marriage allowed:
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK (excl. Northern Ireland) and Malta.
- Registered partnerships (similar rights to marriage):
Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia.
- Registered partnership (limited rights):
Czech Republic, Estonia.
- No same-sex legislation:
Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia.