A same-sex couple has taken the European Union to court this week in a rare grand chamber case calling for their relationship to be recognized – regardless of borders.
15 judges in the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) are now interpreting the word ‘spouse,’ in the context of EU freedom of movement laws.
Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton are the couple at the center of this groundbreaking case. Ultimately, it is about getting recognition for their Belgian marriage, in Adrian’s home country of Romania.
‘The Romanian government refused to consider a residence in Romania for my husband Clai in 2013,’ Adrain tells Gay Star News. ‘So a positive decision would mean Clai can live in Romania with me.’
Specifically, the Court will clarify whether the definition of spouses includes same-sex couples.
The result of this would mean same-sex spouses have equal rights to reside in any EU member states.
The impact of the decision would change the right to same-sex spouses in five countries who don’t already give same-sex couples this right.
Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Latvia would have to recognize gay couples freedom of movement rights.
What will this mean for couples like Clai and Adrian in the EU?
Their legal struggle for this recognition of being a family has now been going on for over five years.
Adrian tells GSN without a change in the law Clai can only travel to Romania for three months, on the basis of his American passport.
‘Simply put, once Clai and I are in Romania, regardless of purpose we become strangers to each other in the eyes of the Romanian government.’
This can create difficult situations for gay couples in official scenarios like in healthcare. Adrian calls this discrimination based on sexual orientation:
‘When we are in Romania, if something happens to one of us, the other one won’t be “family” in the eyes of health authorities, banks etc. Therefore, our family life won’t be recognized by the state.’
One day the couple would like to move to Romania. But that decision for now, is in the hands of the courts.
This is a rare and high-level court case
The case has now been heard in the Grand Chamber of the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
Human rights lawyer Iustina Ionescu from ACCEPT Romania, an LGBT advocacy group is representing Adrian and Clai.
‘We were arguing before the Court, that freedom of movement must be a right all European citizens receive equally.’
‘A Grand Chamber hearing is a rare occurrence’ explains ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis. ‘They only happen in cases of exceptional legal importance and complexity.’
Romanița Iordache, also on Adrian and Clai’s legal team says: ‘The injustice faced by Adrian and Clai is the result of Romania’s stubborn refusal to respect EU law on freedom of movement and European human rights principles.’
Iordache explains that Adrian and Clai are not alone in this situation.
‘Currently, 20% of the Romanian population is residing in another EU country – that means a staggering 3.9 million Romanians. The number includes gay citizens, who face constant violations of their rights when crossing the border back home.’
What is next in the case?
Human rights lawyer Ionescu says ‘now European judges have the opportunity to settle the matter once and for all.’
But it could be months before we hear the judgment, but Adrian, Clai and ACCEPT are hopeful.
And even if the judgment goes there way, Adrian explains its a long road ahead:
‘After the EU court’s decision, we’ll go back to the Romanian Constitutional Court. After, we go back to the first instance court in Bucharest – where we initiated the case.
‘Even if all court decisions are in our favor, the Romanian government can still appeal, so it’s a long road ahead.’
However, their resilience and love is fueling this entire battle:
‘I will not go back to Romania alone, nor with my husband, if our relationship means nothing to the government.
‘Life is unpredictable. We need to rely on each other, and our rights, in order to simply have an ordinary life.’