In a groundbreaking decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Romania must legalize same-sex civil unions, marking a significant victory for LGBTQ+ campaigners in the socially conservative southeastern European country. The court’s ruling, which stems from a case involving twenty-one same-sex couples, emphasizes the violation of Article 8 of the European Convention, protecting the right to respect for family life, due to the lack of legal recognition of their relationships.
The ECHR’s ruling highlights the detrimental effects of the current domestic laws on LGBTQ+ couples, who face various disadvantages such as exclusion from mortgage programs, spousal bereavement leave, and joint health insurance. By refusing to provide any means of legally safeguarding their relationships, Romania has infringed upon the dignity of these couples, according to the court’s findings.
Moreover, the ECHR concluded that recognizing same-sex civil unions would not undermine the institution of marriage, dismissing the government’s arguments against legalizing such unions. The ruling is expected to become legally binding after a three-month period, during which both parties have the option to appeal to a higher court of the ECHR. If no appeals are made, Romania will be obligated to implement legislation that introduces same-sex civil unions.
Despite Romania’s predominantly socially conservative environment, the ruling represents a step toward progress in LGBTQ+ rights. The country currently ranks 41st out of 49 European nations in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, as determined by the ILGA-World advocacy group’s 2023 ranking. However, a survey conducted in 2021 by the Romanian civil rights group Accept Association revealed that 43% of respondents support legal protection for same-sex relationships, with 71% believing that such a move would have no impact on their own lives.
The decision by the ECHR has been met with enthusiasm from activists, who hope that the long-delayed bill concerning civil partnerships, pending in parliament since 2019, will finally be enacted into law. “For too long, we, the LGBTQ+ people in Romania, have been treated as second-class citizens, and it is time for a change,” stated Vlad Viski, executive director of MozaiQ LGBT Association.
As the ruling paves the way for increased equality and recognition of LGBTQ+ rights, it marks a significant moment in Romania’s journey toward a more inclusive society.