Marriage equality, Europe-wide, just came an important step closer: the EU parliament this morning passed a resolution which will require all member states to recognise marriages or civil unions contracted in any other. At present, seven EU countries provide for full marriage for same-sex couples, many others have civil unions which are nearly equivalent in legal force. The major exceptions are Italy, Greece and some of the former Communist countries in the East and the Baltic states.
This new requirement does not (yet) require recognition of same sex unions in all states, but it does improve the prospects. This is just the latest in a series of moves that are standardising approaches to human rights across the Union – including protection from discrimination. The need to recognize foreign marriages will also increase still further the pressure on countries like Italy, Greece and Poland which are still resisting. All EU residents have an automatic right of residence in every other EU country. The new regulation will give foreign gay nationals with marriage or civil union certificates recognition for their unions, and any legal benefits that apply to any other married couples. Their own citizens will not enjoy the same benefits: their governments will be discriminating against them, in favour of foreigners!
For queers in the UK, an offensive element in this development is that the Conservative Party members in the EU parliament joined the efforts to block the adoption of this report, giving the lie to Tory election claims that they fully supported LGBT rights.
The new head of the Conservatives in the European Parliament has been accused of trying to block a motion to call for recognition of civil partnerships across Europe.
Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who began his new post this week, tabled amendments to a motion calling for member states to recognise legal documents, including civil partnership certificates.
Mr Callanan argued that the issue was a matter of states’ sovereignty but Labour MEPs accused him of trying to block equality.
From UK Gay News:
STRASBOURG, November 23, 2010 – Gay couples with civil marriages or civil partnerships must retain their rights in all European Union countries, the European Parliament reaffirmed this morning.
Currently, same-sex couples are not guaranteed to retain the rights given by their existing marriage or civil partnership when travelling in the European Union./p>
In its just-adopted report on civil, commercial, family and private international law, the European Parliament “strongly supports plans to enable the mutual recognition of the effects of civil status documents”, and “stresses the need to ensure mutual recognition” of such documents by EU countries.
This entails recognising the effects of all existing marriages and partnerships when citizens move in the EU.
Following this vote, the European Commission will now have to propose ways to enable mutual recognition of all partnerships and marriages throughout the EU.
“This is a great development for the many couples and families who see their fundamental rights diminished every day when crossing a border inside the EU,” said Ulrike Lunacek MEP, co-president of the European Parliament’s all-party Intergroup on LGBT Rights
“It’s a vote for equality: everyone should retain their existing rights when travelling in the EU,” she pointed out.
At present a marriage certificate is recognised by other countries when a couple move abroad, but the same isn’t true of other legal documents.
Conservative groups in the Parliament had advised against the measure, arguing that it risked undermining national sovereignty.
-Read the report from UK Gay News
-Read the full report adopted by the EU parliament
EU states with :
full marriage equality
Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010).
civil partnerships / civil unions:
Denmark (1989), France (1999) Finland (2002), UK (2004), Luxembourg (2004), Germany (2001, strengthened 2004), Czech Republic (2006), Slovenia (2006), Hungary (1996, strengthened 2009), Ireland (2010), Austria (2010)
Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia
constitutional bans on same sex marriage:
Poland, Lithuania, Latvia (2005), Romania (2009)
- ILGA reacts to European Parliament’s debate on same-sex discrimination (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Gay Marriage, UK: The Legal Challenge Begins (rooting-for-gay-marriage.blogspot.com)
- Equality and inclusion advancing, worldwide. (queering-the-church.com)
- Tonight the European Parliament debates discrimination against married/registered same-sex couples (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Gay Marriage: Coming (Soon?) to a Church Near You. (queering-the-church.com)
- New Tory head in Europe accused of ‘trying to block gay equality’ (Pink News)