Romania: EU same-sex marriage activist says battle not over

A Romanian man who mounted a legal challenge over his country’s refusal to give his American husband residency said on Wednesday the battle was not over, despite a landmark ruling in his favour from the European Union’s top court.

Adrian Coman said he was relieved by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on Tuesday last that Romania must grant his husband, Hamilton, residency rights, even though it does not recognise same-sex marriage.

But he said the case would now go back to Romania’s top court and the couple, who live in New York, would not be packing their bags just yet.

“We are not with the bags packed in sum because this can take very long,” Coman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Bucharest in a phone interview. “We will plan our lives only when there is a final decision.”

“We are relieved at the same time because we were aware of the impact of the decision,” he said, adding an unfavourable ruling would have set a legal precedent for other couples.

The case, which highlighted social differences between western Europe and a more conservative east, arose because Hamilton’s right as a non-EU citizen to live in Romania permanently was dependent on his status as Coman’s spouse.

Coman challenged a Romanian decision to limit Hamilton’s residence to a three-month visa, and a Romanian court referred the matter to the ECJ in Luxembourg.

The ECJ ruled that Romania must treat Hamilton as Coman’s spouse under EU law, and accept the validity of their 2010 Belgian marriage.

“We are two ordinary people who did not accept injustice and our message is that (others) should do the same if they can, because life could be different,” said Coman.

The case did not touch on the freedom of member states to set their own matrimony laws, although campaigners have called on Brussels to push states to legalise same-sex marriage as a fundamental human right.

Rather, it upheld rights of EU citizens to move freely across the bloc along with their families.

Coman said Hamilton would fly to Bucharest from New York on Friday to celebrate their 16th anniversary together.

The couple settled in New York after their plan to live in Romania hit the rocks in 2012, but hope to resettle to Bucharest at some point in the future, Coman said.

“Our lives are not the same, but what we have learned that life can change quickly,” he said.

“We should be able to move to Romania when we want not when the Romanian government wants.”

-Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Thomson Reuters Foundation

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