The European Court of Justice ruled today that as far as the laws of free movement within the European Union are concerned, the term “spouse” includes married people of the same sex (pdf).
It is a victory for a US-Romanian couple who asked the EU’s top court to rule that gay married couples have the same rights to live in whatever country they want in the bloc as straight people, even if gay marriage is illegal in the EU member state they live in.
Romanian citizen Adrian Coman and American Clai Hamilton met in America in 2002 and married in Brussels in 2010. When Coman’s job at the European Parliament ended in 2012, he tried to register their marriage certificate with the Romanian consulate in Brussels, to claim residence rights for his husband and was denied.
The pair sued Romania, accusing it of violating EU laws that allow couples to live and work anywhere in the bloc. The case reached the ECJ in 2016.
The ECJ has the ultimate say and its rulings must be adopted by all member states. Currently, 22 out of 28 EU member states allow gay marriage and civil partnerships but the freedom of movement rights differed in countries where same-sex partnerships were not recognized.
The ruling will likely fan the flames of hatred towards Brussels not just in Romania, but among eurosceptic, right-wing governments in countries like Poland, Hungary and Latvia too, who argue that it’s up to national governments, not Brussels to decide how to define marriage.