World

European Union court adviser backs EU-wide recognition of same-sex spouses

European Union court adviser backs EU-wide recognition of same-sex spouses

Melchior Wathelet, who is a Belgian advocate in the court, said that the new rules will ensure that the rights of individuals are always upheld.

But because Romania does not recognise same-sex marriage, Hamilton's bid for a residence permit to live there was refused.

The opinion was released as the ECJ hears the case of Romanian Adrian Coman, who tied the knot with his American partner, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, in Belgium in 2010. "While Member States are free to provide for marriage between persons of the same sex in their domestic legal system or not, they must fulfill their obligations under the freedom of movement of European Union citizens".

This week, ECJ advocate general Melchior Wathelet said that should include same-sex spouses who Wednesday in a country that has equal marriage on the books.

The judge said the term "spouse" in European Union law had to be "interpreted autonomously and uniformly throughout the EU", adding that it "refers to a relationship based on marriage while nevertheless being neutral as to the sex of the persons concerned and indifferent as to the place where that marriage was contracted".




His advice is not binding, but the BBC reports ECJ judges generally followed the advocate's lead. Romania's Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice whether the non-EU spouse should be regarded as a spouse eligible to claim a right of residence.

However, the Romanian authorities refused to grant Mr Hamilton that right of residence on the ground, inter alia, that he could not be classified in Romania as the "spouse" of an European Union citizen, that member state not recognising same-sex marriage. The couple challenged the decision in Romanian court, claiming it was discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld said: "This is fantastic news and a landmark opinion for rainbow families". In its conclusions, known this Thursday, community lawyer opens door to a greater protection of rights of homosexual marriages in countries where it is not legalized.

"The fact that Mr. Hamilton did not live continuously with Mr. Coman in [Brussels] does not seem to me to be capable of rendering their relationship ineffective", he wrote.

More than a dozen European Union countries have not legalised marriage equality, including Italy, Greece and Slovenia, but Wathelet was at pains to emphasise that this case was not about same-sex marriage.


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