ECJ plans to rule on same-sex marriage in Romania

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Romania in 2000 but there are reports that aversion to same-sex couples within the country continue to run high. [Guillaume Paumier/ Flickr]

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is set to rule on same-sex marriage in a landmark Romanian case, but religious freedom groups are rooting for a win for national sovereignty.

Romanian LGBT activist Adrian Coman and his American partner, Robert Claibourn Hamiliton, obtained a marriage certificate in Belgium in 2010. This landmark case began in 2012— when the couple attempted to relocate to Romania.

Immigration authorities refused to legally recognise their marriage, so Coman and Hamilton responded by suing the Romanian government on the grounds that their right to freedom of movement within the EU had been violated.

Romanian groups push for same-sex marriage ban

Romanian campaigners said Monday (23 May) they had collected three million signatures on a petition to block same-sex unions in the EU member state.

In 2016, the Romanian Constitutional Court handed the case over to the ECJ. It is now up to the Luxembourg court to decide and groups that oppose same-sex marriage are speaking out.

“The Court should not sacrifice respect for national competency and cultural diversity by telling member states that their national legal order does not matter,” said Sophia Kuby, director of EU Advocacy for ADF International.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman”

ADF International, Alliance Defending Freedom’s global partner, is an organisation that advocates for “the right of people to freely live out their faith”. The group said the sanctity of marriage goes hand-in-hand with national sovereignty.

“Many European countries recognise and protect marriage as a union between a man and a woman in their laws and constitutions, as is their right,” Kuby added.

As of now, three million citizens in Romania have signed a petition hoping to keep marriage exclusively between heterosexual couples.

“If this court puts forward a definition of ‘spouses’ as including same-sex partners, national competence on the issue would be eradicated,” Adina Portaru, legal counsel for ADF International and leading lawyer on the third party intervention, said.

Portaru added that if the ECJ forces Romania to amend its national law to legally recognise same-sex relationships, she would consider that to be ‘deliberately ignoring a national democratic process’.

“The core notions of family law: ‘spouses,’ ‘family member,’ and ‘marriage’ fall within the competence of EU member states. This is well supported by the language of core EU directives on the matter,” she continued.

Gay rights organisation: The EU no longer leading on LGBT rights

Many Western European countries have rested on their laurels in recent years when it comes to gay rights – and are now overlooking issues around trans and intersex rights, says Evelyne Paradis.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Romania in 2000, but there are reports that aversion to same-sex couples within the country continue to run high.

Coman and Hamilton told AP that they refrain from holding hands when visiting Romania out of fear that it will attract hostility.

Almost half of all EU member states legally allow same-sex marriage, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The ECJ said the case is still in the written stage and it can make no predictions at this time of when it will be ruled on.

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