The continued failure of EU governments to respect the residency and benefits rights of same-sex partners as they move between countries in Europe has been condemned in a European parliament resolution.
Marriages and registered partnerships formed in one member state should be recognised in all of them, with same-sex spouses and partners treated equally to others, according to a text supported by 387 MEPs, with 161 voting in opposition and 123 abstaining.
The resolution was tabled in response to the confusing patchwork of policy applied to people in same-sex marriages and the failure of some member states to respect recent rulings by the European court of justice (ECJ), the arbiter of EU law.
The EU’s 27 member states retain the freedom not to authorise marriage between people of the same sex, as is the situation in Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
But following a judgment by the ECJ in 2018, in a case taken against the Romanian authorities by Adrian Coman and his husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, EU governments are obliged to at least respect the residency rights of same-sex spouses who have been married elsewhere in the bloc.
However, according to a European parliament study the ruling has not led to a change in policy by the Romanian authorities, who are yet to issue a residence permit to Hamilton, three years after the judgment. And as many as 12 member states have been found granting the right of residence to a same-sex spouse but without attaching the name “spouse”.
The lack of recognition of same-sex marriage more broadly has created obstacles to people claiming pensions, the award of joint health insurance, and succession to tenancies.
The difficulties are said to be even greater for same-sex couples who are legal parents in one member state but who have found that their position changes on crossing a border.
They may cease to be legally a couple, becoming instead two unrelated individuals. Their child or children may go from having two legal parents to only one legal parent or, in a few cases involving surrogacy, to no legal parents, the parliament’s study found, leading to the denial of rights and benefits which the law reserves for “families”.
Two cases are pending before the European court of human rights in which same-sex couples who married abroad have been faced with the refusal of Polish authorities to register their marriage in the country’s marriage registry, on the basis that this would be contrary to “basic principles of the Polish law”.
The marriages are not recognised in Poland “for any legal purposes”, meaning rights or entitlements reserved for married couples are being refused to same-sex couples.
The MEPs’ resolution called on the European Commission to “ensure that all EU member states respect continuity in law as regards the family ties of members of rainbow families which move to their territory from another member state”.