Romania is breaching the human rights of same-sex couples by refusing to legally recognise their relationships, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled.
Currently, Romania doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships.
On Tuesday (23 May), the ECHR ruled that as a result, Romania’s government is in breach of article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life.
The judgement was issued after 21 couples, all Romanian nationals born between 1967 and 1996, lodged complaints with the ECHR between 2019 and 2020.
In their applications, the couples complained that there was no way they could legally safeguard their relationships in Romania due to the lack of recognition.
Each of the couples had given notice to their local registry offices expressing their intention to marry, but their requests were rejected under an article that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Their requests were also rejected under a separate article which states that same-sex marriage is “prohibited” in Romania.
LGBTQ+ couples in Romania denied social and civil rights
A majority of seven judges ultimately ruled that Romania is in breach of article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In its ruling, the court said member states are required to provide some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples based on past rulings.
The court found that the couples at the centre of the case had been unable to access many of the social and civil rights granted to heterosexual couples due to the lack of legal recognition.
The ECHR rejected the Romanian government’s argument that those rights could be replicated by private contractual arrangements.
Finally, the ECHR ruled that societal opposition to same-sex marriage in Romania should not override same-sex couples’ right to have their relationships legally recognised.
Ultimately, none of the Romanian government’s arguments to justify its restrictive laws were found to outweigh the right of queer people to have their relationships legally recognised.
The judgement comes just weeks after ILGA-Europe gave Romania a score of just 18 per cent on LGBTQ+ rights. The country was ranked as one of the worst places for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe.
In a 2019 poll, 53 per cent of LGBTQ+ people in Romania said they were “almost never open” about their identity, while 23 per cent said they were “rarely open”.
In 2022, the Romanian government came under fire when it introduced a so-called LGBTQ+ “propaganda” bill, which would ban the use of materials in schools that “promote” being queer.
ECHR condemns Romania for violating gay couples’ rights
Europe’s top court on Tuesday ruled that Romania is violating the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to legally recognise their unions, dealing a further blow to the socially conservative country.
In Romania, an EU member since 2007, homosexuality was decriminalised only in 2001, but the country still bars marriage and civil partnerships for same-sex couples.
In recent years, the Eastern European country has made several attempts to restrict LGBTQ rights, including trying to axe the field of gender identity studies at universities and schools.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ruled – by five votes to two – that Romania is in violation of Article eight of the European Convention of Human Rights, which provides for the right to respect for private and family life.
The court’s judgement follows the legal complaints brought by 21 same-sex couples before the ECHR in 2019 and 2020, arguing they have been denied certain rights provided for married couples under Romanian law.
While the Romanian government – represented by an official – argued that the majority of Romanians disapprove of same-sex unions, the court found that this “cannot be set against the applicants’ interest in having their respective relationships adequately recognised and protected by law”.
In its ruling, the ECHR also stressed that “allowing the recognition of same-sex unions would not undermine the institution of marriage since heterosexual couples can still marry”.
The judicial arm of the Council of Europe recalled that member states are required to provide a legal framework that allows for the adequate recognition and protection of the relationship between same-sex couples.