All EU countries must recognise residency rights of gay spouses regardless of same-sex marriage laws, European Court of Justice rules

'We are one step closer to being recognised as a family and I am truly elated,' says husband at centre of case

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 06 June 2018 18:19 BST
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European Court of Justice rules Romania must grant residence to American husband of a local man even though Romania does not permit same-sex marriage
European Court of Justice rules Romania must grant residence to American husband of a local man even though Romania does not permit same-sex marriage (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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All European Union countries must recognise the residency rights of same-sex spouses, the EU's top court has ruled.

In a landmark ruling for gay rights in Europe, the European Court of Justice ruled Romania must grant residence to the American husband of a local man even though Romania itself does not permit same-sex marriage.

Adrian Coman, from Romania, and his American husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, have fought a six-year legal battle to get their marriage, which took place in Belgium in 2010, legally recognised in the eastern European country.

The ruling has implications for tens of thousands of same sex couples in Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia.

Currently, the formerly communist countries don’t offer legal protection to same-sex couples.

While the case did not touch on the freedom of member states to set their own matrimony laws, campaigners have called on Brussels to push states to legalise same-sex marriage as a fundamental human right.

Instead, the Luxembourg-based court upheld the rights of EU citizens to move freely across the bloc with their families.

“Although the member states have the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex,” the judges said, “they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU member state, a derived right of residence in their territory.”

Mr Coman, a 46-year-old gay rights activist, said: ”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 for the purpose of free movement within the EU.”

Mr Hamilton, also 46, speaking by video link from New York, said: “We are one step closer to being recognised as a family and I am truly elated.”

Practically, the ruling means Mr Hamilton, as a non-EU citizen, will have employment rights and health benefits which were previously denied to him.

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Opposition to same-sex relationships is often fierce in conservative Romania, where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2002.

The European Commission has insisted the ruling is not part of a push from Brussels to force social change across the bloc.

When asked about opposition to same-sex marriage in parts of eastern European, Margaritis Schinas, a spokesman for the European Commission, said: ”Member states are in charge – but this is a useful clarification in terms of avoiding discrimination.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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