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European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found Tuesday that Romania violated the European Convention on Human Rights article 8’s right to respect for private and family life because of the “absence of any form of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples.”
The case, Buhuceanu and Others v. Romania arose when Romania rejected the application of 21 same-sex Romanian couples’ request to marry. Under current Romanian law, marriage is only recognized between a man and a woman. Under article 277 section 1 of Romania’s Civil Code, “[s]ame-sex marriage is prohibited.” The couples then filed suit to the court, arguing that Romania’s laws violated their right to respect for their private and family lives and amounted to “discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation.”
The judgement–which was decided 5 to 2 in favor of the applicants–found that there had been a violation of article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights by Romania. Article 8 states that “[e]veryone has the right to respect for his private and family life” and that there can be “no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except” under narrow considerations.
In its submission, Romania’s government argued that, because majority of the Romanian population are against same-sex unions, to recognize same-sex relationships as legal would be against public interest. It was further submitted that Romanian courts had not yet determined if same-sex couples benefitted from having legally recognized unions, which was contrary to the ECHR’s decision in the case of Oliari and Others v. Italy. That decision found that allowing same-sex unions does not stop opposite-sex marriages from legal recognition. Therefore, there is no legal justification relating to public interest for the absence of legal recognition for same-sex unions.
The court found that Romania’s government’s submissions to the court on grounds of public interest did not prevail “over the applicants’ interest in having their respective relationships adequately recognised and protected by law.
While the standard for non-punitive damages was met, the court did not name an amount. The applicants’ claims for punitive damages were rejected.
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