The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that EU countries, who do not have legalised same-sex marriage, must respect the rights of gay spouses choosing to live together in their territory. The ruling came to prominence after the individual case of a Romanian man, Adrian Coman, accused Romanian government officials of discrimination once he wanted to build a life in his own country with his husband. Coman and his American spouse, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, married in Brussels in 2010 and had been living together for four years in the U.S. The landmark ruling is considered instrumental in human dignity and freedom.
The ECJ said in their ruling that while EU countries can retain ‘the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex, they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU member state, a derived right of residence in their territory’. The court goes on to say that the term “spouse” is gender-neutral and ‘may therefore cover the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen’.
The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Romania was introduced in 2002. Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military but there is no official recognition of same-sex marriages. Romanita Iordache, vice-president of a Romanian gay rights activist group, has said ‘starting from this moment onward, Romanian authorities now have an obligation to respect the decision’.
The ruling comes in the same week the Supreme Court of the United States voted 7-2 for anti-discrimination laws to respect freedom to exercise religion. The case went to the supreme court after a baker in the state of Colorado refused to produce a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The owner of the Masterpiece bakery states his religious beliefs were his reasons for this.