Saturday, 24 March, 2018

European Union top lawyer says Romania must accept gay partners

Clai Hamilton whose residency application to Romania was rejected and Adrian Coman.
Accept Association Clai Hamilton whose residency application to Romania was rejected and Adrian Coman. Credit Accept Association
Melinda Barton | 13 January, 2018, 08:16

Wathelet issued the opinion in regards to a 2010 case involving a Romanian citizen named Adrian Coman who married his American husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, in Brussels in 2010.

The term "spouse" includes same-sex partners under European Union law, meaning that member states can not deny them residence rights even if gay marriage is illegal in that country, the legal advisor to the bloc's top court said Thursday.

About 3 million people signed a petition backing a referendum to amend the Romanian Constitution so it explicitly states that marriage only can be a union between a man and a woman.

Romania is one of six countries in the European Union where it is not yet legal for same-sex partners to marry. 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 and Hamilton have been fighting for years to have their legal status as spouses officially recognised in Romania, where there is strong anti-gay sentiment.

A press release [PDF] from the ECJ states "the legal issue at the centre of the dispute is not that of the legalization of same-sex marriage, but that of the free movement of European Union citizens".

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.

If Coman's bid is successful, the ruling would be controversial in Romania, where USA evangelicals have pushed a law to ban same-sex marriage.

A senior adviser to the European Union's top court has backed a Romanian gay man's right to have his U.S. husband live with him in Romania. He added that all EU governments have a responsibility to uphold the rights of their citizens regardless of their sexual orientation, and that by refusing to grant residency to a spouse on these grounds was against the fundamental policies of the Union.

He noted that "the directive makes no reference to member state law in order to determine the nature of "spouse", even though that concept must be interpreted autonomously and uniformly throughout the EU".

Advocates general's opinions are not binding, but the court often rules the same way as the advocate general. Moreover, the ECtHR also considered that, in the area of family reunification, the objective of protecting the traditional family can not justify discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

"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.