EU-wide recognition of same-sex partnerships urged

Members of the European Parliament, including the four presidents of the
Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, told the European Union’s
commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship on Sept. 7
that much more must be done to uphold same-sex couples’ rights as they
move around the EU.

“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,” the
Intergroup said.

A 2004 EU directive supports freedom of movement for citizens in same-sex
unions, but it has seen “patchy application,” the MEPs said. They urged
Commissioner Vivian Reding, who is also vice president of the European
Commission, to rectify the problems promptly.

In response to the MEPs’ actions, the European Region of the International
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association said that while the
directive “encourages” equal treatment for same-sex partners, it does not
obligate EU member states to recognize the civil status of same-sex
partners from other EU nations.

As a result, “many same-sex couples effectively have their marriages and
registered partnerships de facto voided when they exercise their rights to
freedom of movement to countries that do not have an equivalent
institution to their civil status,” ILGA-Europe said.

That leads to problems with social security, survivor pensions, medical
decision-making, parental ties and other matters, the group said.

In responding to the MEPs’ complaints, however, Reding claimed that
current EU law does mandate EU-wide recognition of other nation’s official
gay partnerships.

“If you live in a legally recognized same-sex partnership or marriage in
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,” she said.

“When is this going to happen? Now!” Reding added. “Not in five or 10
years. … If there is no understanding (from national governments), then
more harsh measures have to be applied.”

She said she is working on the issues through bilateral meetings.

ILGA-Europe, however, disputed Reding’s interpretation of the law, saying:
“The response of the Commission was that the legislation is already …
providing for just recognition, and that matters of legislation around the
recognition of same-sex partners is a domestic issue for the member states
to resolve. (W)e cannot agree with the Commission that the Freedom of
Movement Directive is already tackling the gaps that the MEPs highlighted.
Many same-sex partners are in fact opting not to travel and reside in a
number of EU countries due to the implications that non-recognition of
their marriages/registered partnerships has on their lives.”

Reding herself must “take political leadership on this issue,” ILGA said,
and “initiate actions requiring EU member states to mutually recognize
each other’s marriages and partnerships between the persons of the same

“Only legally binding mutual recognition of such marriages and
partnerships will ensure that the fundamental EU principle of freedom of
movement will be fully applied to married or in-civil-partnership same-sex
couples,” the group said.

Five of the EU’s 27 nations let same-sex couples marry and 14 offer them
civil partnerships.

By Rex Wockner


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