Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Ukraine must allow same-sex unions, European rights court rules

Despite a global cultural shift in recent years, the Ukrainian constitution still limits marriage to a union between one man and one woman.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Europe’s top rights court said on Thursday that Ukraine violated the human rights of a gay couple who had been denied recognition of their relationship, in the latest ruling against countries that have not legalized same-sex marriage. 

The European Court of Human Rights found that by treating straight and gay couples differently, Kyiv had violated the European Convention on Human Rights and said the country must provide equal legal protections for same-sex couples, although it is free to restrict the use of the word "marriage" to heterosexual relationships. 

Less than 15 years ago, the Strasbourg-based court concluded in a landmark ruling that the European Convention on Human Rights allows for same-sex marriage but does not require it. In a case involving Russia earlier this year, however, the court found that consensus on the issue has shifted so much that it is no longer optional.

“The applicants’ grievance is essentially that they should be entitled to be treated with equal dignity in their core needs as a couple in a stable committed relationship,” the seven-judge panel wrote Thursday, adding that "the state has failed to provide any justification for treating the applicants differently as a couple as compared with different-sex couples."

The two men, Andriy Maymulakhin and Andriy Markiv, have been together for nearly 15 years. In 2014, they applied for a marriage license from the municipal authorities, a request which was denied as the Ukrainian constitution limits marriage to a union between one man and one woman. They then filed a complaint with the rights court, which was created in 1953 to protect the civil and political rights of Europeans. 

Last month, the court issued a similar decision in a case involving 21 gay Romanian couples. Of the 46 member states in the Council of Europe - the body which oversees the court - 30 countries offer same-sex couples either marriage or an equal form of legal partnership. 

When Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Markiv joined the National Guard of Ukraine to defend his country. As he did not have a wife, he was informed that in the event of his death, his mother would be notified, not his partner. 

In 2015, Ukraine announced a National Human Rights Strategy, which was approved by the president and included proposed legislation that would legalize civil unions for both straight and gay couples. The government argued that when this law was passed, Maymulakhin and Markiv would have the same legal rights as straight couples. 

The court pointed out that the country had failed to move forward with any regulations so far and noted that it “cannot speculate on a piece of legislation which does not exist yet.” 

The panel awarded the men 14,064 euros ($15,000) in damages and costs. They had also paid 32 euros ($34) each to have wills notarized since they couldn’t inherit from one another without a legal contract. The court granted the request. 

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Categories / Civil Rights, Government, International

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