European Union Countries Must Recognize European Union Citizens’ Same-Sex Spouses’ Right to Live and Work Across Member Countries

On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that all member countries of the European Union must recognize same-sex marriage with regard to providing the same right to live and work across the European Union’s 28 countries as heterosexual spouses, regardless of any individual country’s views on same-sex marriage. The six European Union countries that have not legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions are former Eastern Bloc countries that joined the European Union in the 21st century. The court stated that those six countries remain free not to legalize same-sex marriage or civil unions. However, the court expounded, countries “may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an E.U. citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an E.U. member state, a derived right of residence in their territory.”

The case involved Adrian Coman, a Romanian activist, and his American husband, Claibourn Robert Hamilton. The two married in Belgium in 2010 before moving to Romania, which does not recognize same-sex marriage. Hamilton was denied spousal residency rights in Romania. The couple filed suit in Romania in 2013, with the European Court of Justice taking the case in November 2016. L.G.B.T. rights advocates welcome the ruling for recognizing that European citizens and their spouses have full freedom of movement, which is one of the four economic freedoms afforded to European citizens by the Treaty of Rome.


Additional Reading

Same-Sex Marriages Are Backed in E.U. Immigration Ruling, The New York Times (June 5, 2018)

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 5 June 2018, EUR-Lex (June 5, 2018)

Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 5 June 2018 (PDF), EUR-Lex (June 5, 2018)

Consolidated Version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, EUR-Lex (October 26, 2012)