Bulgaria Must Acknowledge Same-Sex Relationships, Says ECHR
Gender discrimination in Bulgaria leaves several people in same-sex relationships in despair. They aren’t recognised or even protected.
Criticism of Same-Sex Relationships Marriage
Darina Koilova and Lilia Babulkova are same-sex couples married in the United Kingdom. However, the Bulgarian institution persistently refutes them.
On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled in favour of the Koilova and Babulkova case. The court stipulated the Bulgarian state establish a legal framework, allowing same-sex couples to get appropriate acceptance and security.
“What is essential in this ruling is that, even though there is no specific deadline to implement the framework, the state is required to go through this process and in collaboration with the Council of Europe,” Denitsa Lyubenova, a human rights activist, lawyer and member of the Deystvie LGBTIQ+ collective,” said Denitsa Lyubenova, a human rights activist, lawyer and member of the Deystvie LGBTIQ+ collective.
Lyubenova and her team represented Babulkova and Koilova for seven years in a legal battle regarding their same-sex marriage. The couple are living together for more than 14 years and in 2016 decided to get married in the UK.
However, in 2017, Bulgaria’s Sofia municipality refused to recognise their union, citing that marriage is an act between a man and a woman, not of same-sex relationship. After two years, the same-sex couple together with Lyubenova, tried to file a complaint against the municipality. But, the Administrative Court and the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the municipality’s perspective.
Historic Win Over Violation of Rights
According to ECHR, Bulgaria violated the rights of Babulkova and Koilova by not recognising their marriage abroad. The court stated that it dishonoured Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is the right to respect private and family life.
The court’s rule will help close legal destitution in Bulgaria, which doesn’t authorise same-sex marriage. At the same time, the country doesn’t acknowledge same-sex couples married overseas.
“It is clear to the Court that to date the Bulgarian authorities have taken no steps to have adequate legal regulations adopted with regard to the recognition of unions between persons of the same sex,” the court wrote in its decision.
The court noted the vote was unanimous among the seven presiding judges. Although the ruling didn’t compel Bulgaria to legalise same-sex marriage, the authorities must protect them.
Moreover, the court’s decision stated that the deprivation of any official recognition means same-sex couples in Bulgaria can’t govern crucial aspects of their lives. This includes property, inheritance, and security from domestic violence.
For many years, the LGBT community in Bulgaria has been experiencing hate speech and violence. The court’s verdict that favoured the Koilova and Babulkov case is key and paramount for the development of Bulgarian legislation with regard to equality and LGBTI rights.