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News 11 Jan 18

Romania Under Pressure to Recognise Same-Sex Spouses

The European Court of Justice is to rule on whether Romania should grant equal rights to same-sex couples that have married abroad, despite its own non-recognition of same-sex marriage.

Ana Maria Luca
BIRN
Bucharest
The European Court of Justice Photo: G.Fessy/curia.europa.eu

Advocate General Melchior Wathelet on Thursday asked the European Court of Justice to issue a decision telling Romania to recognise same-sex marriages made abroad.

The court is set to rule on whether Romania should allow same rights to gay couples based on European Union freedom of movement legislation.

Although EU member states are free to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex or not, Wathelet argued that they may not impede the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his or her spouse of the same sex, a national of a non-EU country, a right of permanent residence in their territory.

The court discussed the case at the request for a point of view submitted in 2017 by the Romanian Constitutional Court in a case of Romanian, Adrian Coman, and his American spouse, Robert Hamilton, who married in Belgium in 2010.

The Romanian authorities refused to issue the necessary documents to enable Hamilton to work and reside permanently in Romania with his spouse because he could not be classified in Romania as the spouse of an EU citizen. The country does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Wathelet said on Thursday that the issue in the case was not same-sex marriage recognition but freedom of movement of EU citizens and their family members and, in the area of family reunification, the objective of protecting the traditional family cannot justify discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Judges of the court began deliberations in the case on Thursday; a judgment will be given at a later date.

Same-sex marriage has been in the spotlight in recent years in Romania, after the Coalition for the Family, a set of religious-connected organizations, managed in 2015 to raise enough support to submit a bill to change the constitution so that the family would be redefined as “the union between a man and a woman.”

The bill is still set to pass the lower chamber of parliament.

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