European Parliament debates the recognition of same-sex unions in the EU

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Yesterday night, Members of the European Parliament including Intergroup Presidents Michael Cashman, Sophie in’t Veld, Ulrike Lunacek and Raül Romeva told the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship that more must be done to uphold same-sex couples’ fundamental rights throughout the European Union.

Currently, same-sex couples in a marriage* or civil partnership** often lose custody, fiscal and consular rights when moving from one EU Member State to another—despite EU law guaranteeing freedom of movement. MEPs expressed dismay at the patchy application of a 2004 Directive on Freedom of Movement for citizens in same‑sex unions, and called on Commissioner Viviane Reding to ensure all married or in-civil partnership couples could exercise their fundamental rights.

Commissioner Reding agreed; she responded that “the law is very clear: it’s about non-discrimination, right to free movement and mutual recognition. [...] If you live in a legally-recognised same-sex partnership or marriage in a country A, you have the right—and that is a fundamental right—to take this status, and the one of your partner, to country B. If not, it is a violation of EU law.” The Commissioner affirmed she was currently working on the issue through bilateral meetings, and bringing national governments to apply EU law. She added: “When is this going to happen? Now! Not in 5 or 10 years. [...] If there is no understanding [from governments], then more harsh measures have to be applied.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights, commented: “The fundamental rights laid down in EU law are for every citizen, regardless of their sexual orientation. We need the Commission to push forward, not to wait for Member States to ‘slowly’ or ‘maybe’ do what they must, by law, do for each and every EU citizen.”

Michael Cashman MEP, Co-president of the Intergroup on LGBT Rights, further added: “This is about relationships, possibly the most personal and private aspect of one’s life. Basic EU rights must be guaranteed to everyone. This has nothing to do with changing Member States’ marriage laws: it has to do with enabling free movement across the EU.”

During the debate, Ms Lunacek addressed Ms Reding: “Please push; many in this Parliament want to push with you.”

Members of the European Parliament will now ask the Commissioner to clarify her commitments, and await the Fundamental Rights Agency’s January 2011 updated report on homophobia in the EU.

*: In the EU Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden (5) allow same-sex couples to marry. So do 12 more jurisdictions worldwide.

**: In the EU Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Great Britain (14) allow same-sex couples to enter a civil partnership. So do 24 more jurisdictions worldwide.

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(Thumbnail: Silje Bakke, some rights reserved)

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