Two husbands have won their fight to have their marriage recognized in Romania for the purposes of freedom of movement. In doing so, they have set a precedent for all European Union (EU) same-sex married couples who wish to relocate to other parts of the EU.
Romania does not have same-sex marriage or civil unions. It also does not recognize the marriages of gay citizens who marry abroad.
The case was brought to court by husbands Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton. The men went to court calling for their relationship to be recognized regardless of EU borders. Coman is originally from Romania. Hamilton is American. They met in 2002 in New York’s Central Park.
Coman’s home country does not recognise his marriage to Hamilton, his US spouse. Because of this, the two cannot settle in Romania. They would be able to do so if they were a heterosexual, married couple.
Most of the 28 countries in the EU now offer some form of civil union or marriage for gay couples. However, six do not: Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia. These countries claim a ‘spouse’ must mean someone of the opposite sex.
The meaning of ‘spouse’
A top European Union court has today ruled that all countries in the European Union must recognise the term ‘spouse’ extends to same-sex married couples. This enables same-sex married EU citizens to relocate to any part of the EU and take their partner with them.
The news will have a massive impact on European same-sex spouses who wish to relocate to other EU countries.
— EU Court of Justice (@EUCourtPress) June 5, 2018
In its ruling, the Court of the Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said: ‘Although the Member States have the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex, 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.’
Adrian Coman: ‘Our relationship is equally valuable and equally relevant’
Commenting this morning, Adrian Coman 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.
‘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. It is human dignity that wins today.’
Commenting on the decision, Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of LGBT advocacy group ILGA-Europe said, ‘Equality, fairness and pragmatism were at the core of today’s verdict from Luxembourg. The CJEU has recognised that rainbow families should be recognised equally in the eyes of the law on freedom of movement.
‘Now we want to see the Romanian authorities to move swiftly to make this judgment a reality.’
Romaniţa Iordache, ACCEPT vice-president in Romania issued a statement.
‘Both our country and Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia will be obliged to adopt measures to ensure the free movement of EU citizens and that of their families based on same-sex couples – to grant the right of residence as spouses and to provide a minimum set of rights.
‘This can only be achieved by adopting clear, predictable and unitary legislation on the legal protection of same-sex couples.’
‘A major victory for LGBT rights throughout the European Union’
The decision has been welcomed by Romania-based LGBTI advocacy group, MozaiQ.
Its Executive Director, Vlad Viski, told GSN, ‘We believe it is a major victory for LGBT rights throughout the European Union … It is a first step towards change for equality for all.
‘For the LGBT community in Romania the decision has symbolic implications as well, after decades of criminalization of homosexuality and inactivity by the political class.
‘We congratulate Adrian Coman and Clai Hamilton, as well as our colleagues from the ACCEPT Association, who represented them.
‘We urge the Constitutional Court of Romania to move swiftly towards implementing the CJEU decision and we ask the members of the Romanian parliament to urgently legalize civil unions, recognizing gay couples as equal under the law.’