The European Union’s top court ruled earlier this week that the same-sex partners have the right to live in any EU member state, including those that do not recognize gay marriage. The landmark judgment is expected to further worsen ties between Brussels and Central and Eastern European governments. The EU court found in its ruling that the term spouse is “gender-neutral and may therefore cover the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen”, thus drawing on freedom of movement that allows EU citizens and their spouse to live anywhere in the bloc.
The case was triggered by Romanian citizen Adrian Coman, who married a US citizen in Belgium, in 2010. Romania, however, did not grant Mr. Coman’s husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, residence, on the grounds that the country doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. “We can now look any Romanian and EU civil servant in the eye and have the certainty that our family relationship is as valuable and as relevant irrespective of the EU country we live in,” Mr. Coman said. “Today, human dignity prevailed.”
In the EU, family law is in the domain of member states. Currently, 22 countries allow gay marriage, civil partnership or both. While the EU court said that EU member states were free to decide whether to allow same-sex marriage or not, residence cannot be restricted for gay couples. The decision is likely to turn into a broader debate over the balance of powers between Brussels and EU national governments. At a 2017 court hearing, Hungary, Latvia and Poland argued in support of Romania that the definition of marriage is not an EU matter. Romania’s national agency in charge of antidiscrimination laws, the Netherlands and the EU’s executive body argued in favor of the Romanian-American couple.