The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled that a gay Romanian-American couple are entitled to the same residency rights as other married couples in the European Union.
Romanian Adrian Coman and his American husband Claibourn Robert Hamilton have fought a six-year legal battle to get their 2010 marriage in Belgium legally recognised in Romania.
The court ruled that EU members “may not obstruct the freedom of residence” of EU citizens by refusing to grant residence for the same-sex spouse.
However, members retain “the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex”.
The ruling has implications for tens of thousands of same-sex couples in Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia, which do not currently offer legal protection to same-sex couples.
Mr Coman, a 46-year-old gay rights’ activist, said he was overwhelmed by the ruling.
“Today’s decision means that I can finally look in the eyes of any Romanian or EU clerk with the certainty we are a family and the state recognises what we are,” he said.
Mr Hamilton, also 46, speaking by video link from New York, said: “We are one step closer to being recognised as a family and I am truly elated.”
Iustina Ionescu, a human rights lawyer, said the ruling meant that the couple would “be legally recognised in Romania and the other EU states (and can) freely move around and settle in any of the member states”.
Practically, the ruling means that Mr Hamilton as a non-EU citizen will have employment rights and health benefits, previously denied to him, as Mr Coman’s spouse.
The couple live in New York.
Opposition to same-sex relationships is often fierce in Romania, where homosexuality was only decriminalised in 2002.
Mr Coman’s father, Liviu Coman, said he was pleased at the ruling, which would make some aspects of their lives easier.
However, he said he was most gratified as a parent that “they are happy together and get on well”.