Europe-wide Marriage Equality Coming Closer

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!


Gay marriage, civil unions in Europe, November 2010 (for explanation, see below)

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.

– Pink News


From UK Gay News:

EU-Wide Recognition of Member States’ Gay Marriage, Civil Partnership a Step Closer

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

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)

no provision

Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Slovakia, Estonia

constitutional bans on same sex marriage:

Poland, Lithuania, Latvia (2005), Romania (2009)

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7 Responses to “Europe-wide Marriage Equality Coming Closer”

  1. Kitty Says:

    Are we being conned by the cons ? Why on earth would they object to this, it doesn’t force other countries to bring in CP/marriages and countries like Poland can continue to be as nasty to their own nationals as they want. The change is simply to acknowlege a foreign person’s civil status and to give them an appropriate set of rights. It’s a theme echoced by Ms Redding just over a month ago when the free movement directive was discussed, ie you retain your rights and status if you work and live in another EU country…

    This isn’t a “gay” issue!. CP/PACS in other EU countries are open to straights, it will force the UK to recognise foreign straight partnerships. Is this the objection?

    It may also force the UK to recognise foreign gay marriages and not to downgrade them. It will be forced to recognise foreign civil status ? Is this the objection?

    A worry for us is that CP will never be recognised as marriages. Where a CP and gay marriage exist then CP will not be equated to marriages and won’t get the same potential rights – see French rules, foreign gay marriages have potentially all the same rights as French marriages but foreign CP only have possibly the potential of achieving the same rights as a French PACS (which are much less).

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Thanks, Kitty. The excuse they give is that the opposition is not based on homophobia, but from a belief that these things should be decided by individual countries, not at EU level. This doesn’t convince me.
      You are right to point to the comparison with directives on movement, because that is what this is all about- ensuring that people who move from one country to another, should have their legal status respected in the new country of residence. The reality, I think is that the CP simply do not want to upset their political partners in the far right coalition they have chosen to work with in the EU.
      What are they afraid of? This will lead to the acceptance of marriage equality across the EU. As I have been responding to you, I have just realized there is another very important implication that I had not previously recognized: this new directive will presumably apply not only to foreign nationals who have been married in other EU countries, but will have to apply also to their own nationals who have married in a foreign country.
      For example, an Italian couple who are working in the UK, may choose to marry here. If they return to Italy, that government will have to recognize the marriage. (I’m not sure of the implications for couples who try to get married in countries where they are not actually resident. Will marriage tourism, as with New Yorkers travelling to Vermont for a wedding that is recognized by NY state) be possible in Europe? If not yet, could it become so?

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  4. Kitty Says:

    Thanks, for that. In France (which doesn’t have gay marriages) it still nevertheless will recognise foreing gay marriages as a marriage(under treaties signed/international private law). However, gay marriages between French nationals and say a Dutch man are not recognised. There is also a treaty or something whereby married French couples can take their partner’s nationality as well as keeping their own nationaity but only in married cases I think. I don’t think they normally allow dual citizenships. However , a few years ago a French man married a Dutch man, took his partner’s nationailty , assuming he would keep his own as well but the French took his nationality away from him. There was a big uproar in France about it and I think Sarkozy intervened and might have sorted it out….You’re point is valid and I think for bi-nationals marriages particular care should be taken that they will be recognised…

  5. Mark Says:

    When a British same-sex couple registers a “civil partnership”, they get all the rights – and responsibilities – that a heterosexual couple gets when they register a “civil marriage”. While the arrangement for same-sex couples is not full equality, it is almost there. There is currently a campaign organised by Peter Tatchell where same-sex couples are trying to register civil marriages – and heterosexual couples are trying to register civil partnerships. All are being turned down. But the point is being made.

    If a same-sex couple who are married from any country either visits or settles in the UK, that marriage is automatically recognised, un UK law, as a civil partnership. So there are no fears that such a couple do not enjoy the rights that a couple who are civilally married enjoy. It’s just has a different name, which hopefully will be changed soon. In some cases, a married same-sex couple from another country would get more rights than they enjoy at home – like the right to jointly adopt.

    • Kitty Says:

      But the point of this change is that ALL civil documents are recognised. This is NOT just a gay initiative, the point is that the UK does not recognise straights CPs from other countries .. this is a significant weapon that Tatchel should be using in his campaign and if he is not then it is a wasted opportunity…

      If you are interested then you should be sending an email to your MP or MEP by the 30th, there is more discusiion on this issue on this date … 5IPR00768/

      How to remove the legal and administrative barriers that citizens face when they start a family life, end a marriage or organise their succession in a Member State other than their own will be the focus of a meeting of MEPs, national MPs and experts in Parliament’s plenary chamber on 30 November.


      Discussion will be divided into four thematic sessions. The first will focus on cross-border divorces, property regimes applied to marriages and other forms of union, and the mutual recognition of same-sex marriage and of civil partnerships

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