Landmark European ruling on LGBT+ rights

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05/25/2023

During 2019 and 2020, 21 gay and lesbian couples in Romania joined a complaint against the state to the European Court of Human Rights over the lack of official recognition of their relationships. After over a decade of bottom-up activism and unsuccessful reforms, such couples continue to be legally invisible in the country. Gays and lesbians in Romania cannot make medical decisions on behalf of their partners. They cannot take leave from work should their partner get sick or die. They cannot receive compensation if someone accidentally kills their partner or a survivor’s pension. In sum, they cannot enjoy most of the rights and benefits of heterosexual spouses. In a major judgment delivered on Tuesday (Buhuceanu and Others v Romania), the European Court of Human Rights condemned the government in Bucharest for its failure to guarantee the rights of such couples. The court affirmed that under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)—the key Council of Europe instrument it is mandated judicially to interpret—same-sex couples enjoyed a right to civil unions.

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