One of Europe’s most senior judges has ruled that the definition of spouses does include same-sex couples.
It comes after married couple Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton took the European Union to court in a rare grand chamber case calling for their relationship to be recognized – regardless of borders.
But, the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) still needs to adopt today’s ruling from the Advocate General.
However, the positive opinion from the Advocate General that the definition does extend to same-sex couples, means the CJEU is likely to rule in Coman and Hamilton’s favor.
Teodora from ACCEPT the Romanian LGBT advocacy group, who is representing the couple, explains the significance of today’s ruling:
‘Usually, the decisions of the court follow the opinion of the Advocate General. This opinion is indeed amazing, offering us all of what we requested,’ Teodora tells Gay Star News.
‘Having spouses as an autonomous concept at the level of the EU opens the door for wonderful potential cases for equality, and goes beyond what many other member states currently offer. It would ensure the effective protection of same-sex couples moving across borders.’
However, today’s ruling does not mean all member states will have to grant immediate protection to national same-sex couples.
The official ruling states:
‘Although Member States are free to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex or not, 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.’
Currently, 22 out of 28 European union states already offer civil partnership or marriage for same-sex couples.
But, the impact of the decision will change the right to same-sex spouses in the countries who don’t already give same-sex couples this right.
Moreover, if the ruling goes Coman and Hamilton’s way – Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania, and Latvia would have to recognize gay couples freedom of movement rights.
The husbands fighting for the recognition of their marriage across Europe’s borders
Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton are the couple at the center of this groundbreaking case.
Speaking after today’s ruling Hamilton tells Gay Star News:
‘Clai and I are very happy to see the Advocate General positive opinion. We are optimistic for an equally positive good decision from the EU Court.’
Hamilton hopes the ruling will be positive for LGBTI Romanians too. Florin Buhuceanu, ACCEPT President tells GSN:
‘The conclusions today offer the Romanian LGBTI community a small glimmer of hope. Even if a likely positive CJUE decision will not affect the protection same-sex families receive in Romania. It will make a significant difference for the many Romanians who live abroad and who are in a same sex relationship.’
But ultimately for the couple, 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 told Gay Star News just after their trial began. ‘So a positive decision would mean Clai can live in Romania with me.’
Their legal struggle for this recognition of being a family has now been going on for over five years.
In addition, without a change in the law, Clai can only travel to Romania for three months at a time. And that’s only on the basis of his American passport.
‘Once Clai and I are in Romania, in the eyes of the government, we become strangers to each other’
One day the couple would like to move to Romania. But that decision, for now, remains in the hands of the courts.