European Court of Justice advisors say gay spouses have equal rights

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2018

Melchior Wathelet, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice's (basically the court's top lawyer) said that "even countries whose governments oppose same-sex marriage" must recognize the civil and legal rights of same-sex couples, according to The Guardian.

Once the ECJ has made its decision, the case will return to Romanian court.

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.

Wathelet arrived on a one-day official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a series of meetings with the country's

"Although member states are free to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex or not, they may not impede the freedom of residence of an European Union 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", he said.

The current European Union law is neutral on the gender of spouses, with the 2004 freedom of movement act providing these rights to all citizens and their spouses regardless of gender. The couple met in NY in 2002 and lived together there for four years, but Hamilton remained in NY initially when Coman moved to Belgium for work.

Coman has been fighting since 2012 to get his marriage to Hamilton in Belgium two years earlier recognized in Romania, which doesn't acknowledge same-sex unions.

The ECJ has had a relatively benign history with the United Kingdom - unlike the more contentious European court of human rights in Strasbourg - but nonetheless became a symbol of compromised sovereignty during the Brexit referendum.

The ECJ's judgment when it comes could have wider repercussions for the range of benefits and rights that may be claimed by those in same-sex marriages by ensuring that the term spouse is gender neutral in law.

Romania's Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice, which is based in Luxembourg, to weigh in with its legal interpretation of the case. Romania, which does not allow same-sex marriages, refused.

Concluding, he said: "In that context, the advocate general considers that, in view of the general evolution of the societies of the member states of the EU in the last decade in the area of authorisation of same-sex marriage. the term "marriage means a union between two persons of the opposite sex" can no longer be followed".

Wathelet added that "the concept of "spouse" within the meaning of the directive also includes spouses of the same sex".

The official opinion of the advocate general - the highest officers of the court who advise judges on how to rule on complex cases - will now be considered by a panel of ECJ judges.

The senior adviser also stated that "in the area of family reunification, the objective of protecting the traditional family can not justify discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation". They would have been compelled to do so had Mr Coman's partner been of the opposite sex.

Other reports by iNewsToday