European court rules Romania must give residency to gay man's partner

Clai Hamilton and Adrian Coman took their fight for residency rights to the ECJ

The European Union's top court has ruled in favour of a Romanian gay man's right to have his United States husband live with him in Romania.

The Romanian-American couple were married in Brussels in 2010, where same-sex marriage is legal. The men had appealed to Romania's constitutional court, which referred the case to Luxembourg.

The highly publicized case began in 2012 when Romanian LGBT activist, Adrian Coman, and his U.S. partner, Robert Clabourn Hamilton, who were legally married in Belgium in 2010, attempted to relocate to Coman's home country.

The Court nonetheless observes that, in certain cases, nationals of non-EU states, family members of an EU citizen, who are not eligible, on the basis of the directive, could be accorded such a right on the basis of Article 21 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU - a provision which confers directly on EU citizens the primary and individual right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

On Tuesday the court ruled that the term "spouse" in European Union law includes partners of the same sex and instructed other European Union countries to recognise the residency rights of all spouses regardless of whether they allow same sex marriage.

The couple, who have remained in the U.S. because of the decision, challenged the ruling in the Romanian courts. "It is human dignity that wins today".

The court said the ruling did not diminish the democratic choices of Romania, but merely observed that the sexual orientation of the married couple offered no justification for obstructing free movement.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Romania in 2000, but the community still face discrimination within the country, according to LGBT activists.

Coman's father, Liviu, told the Associated Press he was pleased with the ruling, which would make some aspects of their lives easier.

"I worked for the European parliament and when that contract ended I was looking where I could go together with my husband, Clai", he said, adding that Romania was one of the options they had chosen.

Romanița Iordache, the vice-president of the Romanian gay rights organisation Accept, said: "Starting from this moment onward, Romanian authorities now have an obligation to respect the [ECJ] decision, and ensure residency rights and minimal recognition for all same-sex families in a similar situation".

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