June 5th saw the European Union’s top court rule that same-sex couples could reside together like any other married couple. This ruling includes even state members who don’t recognize gay marriage.
The EU Court of Justice established that the term “spouse” is gender-neutral, and therefore inclusive in its meaning. Those a part of the EU must allow all married couples their right to move around and reside freely within the EU’s borders, regardless of their sexual orientation. It was with this ruling that the court sided with a gay couple in Romania who were denied the right to cohabitate as a married couple in their country which does not recognize same-sex marriage.
The court’s judgment is hailed as the first of its kind in its inclusion of same-sex couples and their freedom of movement. The ruling, however, did stop short only in not obligating Romania or other members to allow same-sex marriage.
The executive director of advocacy group ILGA-Europe stated that the core of the verdict was equality, fairness, and pragmatism. While countries don’t have to allow the union of a same-sex couple, they must recognize those already joined in states that would enable the unities.
The Couple Behind the European Union’s Decision
Dual US-Romanian citizen, Adrian Coman met US citizen Claibourn Hamilton back in 2002. From 2005 until 2009, the couple lived together in New York.
Then, Coman relocated to Brussels to work at the European Parliament while Hamilton stayed in New York. Then, in 2010, the two married in Brussels.
When Coman’s employment ended in 2012, the two considered relocating to Romania to be closer with Coman’s family. The couple contacted Romanian authorities to see how Hamilton could obtain a work Visa. This should have also allow him to reside there for more than a few months as a part of Coman’s family.
According to the EU’s right to free movement, non-EU spouses may join their EU partner where they reside. The couple searched for a residency permit for Hamilton based on this rule, assuming it would apply in their case. However, authorities denied their request since Romania does not recognize same-sex marriages.
The couple then brought this dispute before the Romanian Constitutional Court who asked the Court of Justice to determine whether or not Hamilton should be considered a spouse as stated in the right to permanent residency.
The court ruled that to refuse residency to any EU citizen’s spouse would interfere with their right to move freely. The court emphasized that this does not require the Member States to allow same-sex marriages. Nor does it undermine the state’s national identity or pose a threat to their public policy.