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12 January 2018, 11:25 | Opal Carroll
The European Court of Justice
In his Opinion delivered today, Advocate General Wathelet states, first of all, that the legal issue at the centre of the dispute is not that of the legalisation of same-sex marriage, but that of the free movement of European Union citizens.
Coman and Hamilton have been fighting for years to have their legal status as spouses officially recognised in Romania, where there is strong anti-gay sentiment.
The directive came about after Romanian officials refused to grant residency to Claibourn Hamilton, an American who married his Romanian partner, Adrian Coman, in Brussels in 2010, reports The Guardian.
Under the E.U.'s 2004 freedom of movement principle, member states are required to grant residency to citizens' spouses from non-E.U. countries.
Melchior Wathelet, Advocate General of the European Court of Justice's (basically the court's top lawyer) said that "even countries whose governments oppose same-sex marriage" must recognize the civil and legal rights of same-sex couples, according to The Guardian.
EU law [materials] permits the spouse of an EU citizen to obtain a residence permit for the EU member state where the spouse resides.
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Although opinions by advocates are non-binding, they are often followed by the full court when a decision is made in the coming months.
Wathelet wrote that the definition of marriage being between two persons of the opposite sex was becoming outdated, referring to "the general evolution of the societies of the member states of the European Union in the last decade in the area of authorisation of same-sex marriage". The case was punted to Luxembourg in 2016 when Romania's constitutional court sought clarification on the underlying human-rights issues.
If Coman's bid is successful, the ruling would be controversial in Romania, where USA evangelicals have pushed a law to ban same-sex marriage. The couple challenged the decision in Romanian court, claiming it was discrimination based on sexual orientation.
However, the Romanian authorities refused to grant Mr Hamilton that right of residence on the ground, inter alia, that he could not be classified in Romania as the "spouse" of an European Union citizen, that member state not recognising same-sex marriage.
More than a dozen European Union countries have not legalised marriage equality, including Italy, Greece and Slovenia, but Wathelet was at pains to emphasise that this case was not about same-sex marriage.
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