European Union top court told same-sex spouses have residence rights

European Union top court told same-sex spouses have residence rights

Melchior Wathelet, who is a Belgian advocate in the court, said that the new rules will ensure that the rights of individuals are always upheld.

Romania does not have marriage equality - but it must now recognize the rights of same-sex spouses.

The case involves a Romanian male national who had married a man from the United States in Brussels in 2010.

"The obligation to facilitate the entry and residence of the national of a third state of the same sex as the citizen of the European Union to whom he or she is married is greater, and the discretion narrower, when the member state does not allow marriage between persons of the same sex and does not afford homosexual couples the possibility of entering into a registered partnership", Wathelet wrote.

"Although member states are free to authorize 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-E.U. country, a right of permanent residence in their territory", said Melchior Wathelet, advocate general of the ECJ. Romania's Constitutional Court asked the European Court of Justice whether the non-EU spouse should be regarded as a spouse eligible to claim a right of residence.

"That conclusion also applies in respect of that citizen's country of origin, when he returns there after residing on a permanent basis in another Member State in which he has developed or consolidated a family life, as Mr Coman has done with Mr Hamilton in the present case". 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.

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Although opinions by advocates are non-binding, they are often followed by the full court when a decision is made in the coming months.

Sophie in 't Veld, vice president of the Liberal group in the European Parliament and vice president of the European Parliament's LGBTI Intergroup, said: "This is fantastic news and a landmark opinion for rainbow families".

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

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.

"Romanian citizens can not be divided into good and gay".

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