ECHR: Romania must Legalize Same-Sex Marriages
Romania must legalize same-sex civil unions, Europe's highest human rights court ruled on Tuesday, a victory for LGBTQ+ activists in the conservative-leaning country, Reuters reported.
Twenty-one same-sex couples have brought a case against Romania to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), arguing that the lack of legal recognition of their relationships "deprives them of their dignity as spouses".
In a ruling on Tuesday, the ECHR found that the country violated Article 8 of the European Convention, which protects the right to respect for family life, by not providing LGBTQ+ couples with any means of legal protection for their relationships.
Romanian couples highlighted the inconveniences they face under current domestic law, such as being barred from benefiting from family mortgage programs, receiving leave due to the loss of a spouse or joint health insurance.
The ECHR said none of the government's arguments outweighed the couples' concerns.
One of the arguments of the government in Bucharest was that same-sex couples could benefit from the protection of their rights through private contracts. According to the court, the details in this argument were insufficient, "and have already been rejected in other ECHR cases".
Regarding claims that the institution of marriage should be protected, the court said that it was not threatened by the decision, as it did not restrict the right of heterosexual Romanians to marry.
The decision in the case known as "Buhuceanu and Ciobotaru v. Romania" was made by 5 to 2 judges' votes.
It will enter into force after a three-month period in which both sides have the right to appeal to a higher instance of the ECHR. If neither do so, the decision will stand and require Romania to implement legislation to introduce same-sex civil unions.
If there is an appeal with a request that the case reach the so-called Grand Chamber of the ECHR, a panel of five judges will review it to decide whether further review is necessary. But if the commission considers that there is no need for such a development, the decision enters into force immediately and is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for the supervision of its implementation by Romania.
The Balkan country of almost 20 million people is ranked 41st out of 49 countries in the 2023 ranking of the European branch of the LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA-World. In 2021, a survey by the Romanian civil rights group Accept Association showed that, despite this, 43% of respondents said they supported legal protection of same-sex relationships. Seventy-one percent said the change would have no impact on their lives.
Campaigners welcomed the ECHR's ruling, saying they hoped to see a civil partnership bill that has been blocked in parliament since 2019 finally become law. "For too long we, LGBTQ+ people in Romania, have been treated as second-class citizens and it's time for a change," said Vlad Viski, executive director of the MozaiQ association.
The claim is on behalf of 21 same-sex couples of Romanian citizens born between 1967 and 1996 and living in different parts of the country. Their cohabitation is of different duration and all have requested to be registered as living in a civil marriage. But they were denied this because it contradicted two articles of the Civil Code, according to which "Marriage is concluded between a man and a woman" and "same-sex marriages are prohibited."
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