The European Court of Justice has ruled that all European Union member states must recognise the residency rights of married same-sex couples.
The case involved Romanian activist Adrian Coman and his American husband Claibourn Robert Hamilton, who had been living in the United States for four years before marrying in Belgium in 2010.
When they tried to move to Romania a few years later, the country denied Hamilton spousal residency rights, as it does not recognise same-sex marriage. Officials argued that because Hamilton could not be classified as the spouse of an EU citizen in Romania, he was unable to have access to employment rights and healthcare benefits.
The Court of Justice took up the case in November 2016, after Romania’s Constitutional Court requested an interpretation of EU law.
It ruled that all EU countries must recognise same-sex marriage in relation to immigrations cases where one partner is a citizen of the bloc.
“Although the member states have the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex,” the judges said, “they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU member state, a derived right of residence in their territory.”
The verdict was an important victory for LGBT rights groups, which have long argued that same-sex spouses of EU citizens should be afforded the same basic right to live and work across the bloc’s 28 countries as heterosexual spouses, regardless of individual countries’ stances on same-sex marriage.
Romania is one of six EU member states that don’t legally recognise same-sex marriage, along with Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia.
Coman said he had dreamed about this moment for a long time, adding: “I can barely believe it.”
Still, he said, he had been optimistic about the eventual verdict.
“Come on, it’s 2018, it’s one of the core freedoms of the EU,” he said. “But we didn’t expect it to take this long.”