The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Tuesday, May 23, that Romania has violated Article 8 of the European Convention, which protects the right to respect for family life, by not legally recognizing same-sex marriages and by not giving LGBTQ+ couples any means of legally safeguarding their relationships. With this ruling, the ECHR issued an order for Romania to enshrine legal protections for same-sex couples.

“The ruling comes with an enforcement mechanism,” says Iustina Ionescu, the human rights lawyer who argued the case. “The Romanian state must account for what it is doing to recognize and adopt a form of legal protection for same-sex families.” If neither side successfully appeals the ruling after a window of three months, Romania will be required to implement legislation to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples.

In a country ranked as “one of the worst places for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe,” this will be an important stepping stone on the road to marriage equality and rectifying decades of egregious human rights abuses. Romania, a European Union (EU) member since 2007, is notoriously socially conservative and has long faced criticism for its anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

Tuesday’s judgment was made in response to complaints filed by a slate of 21 couples, who cited the disadvantages and discrimination under current domestic laws in the Balkan nation, where same-sex couples have been barred from such protections as mortgage programs, spousal bereavement leave and joint health insurance. “Romania must stop the discrimination by law,“ Florin Buhuceanu and Victor Ciobotaru say in a statement. The petitioners say they vow to continue their efforts “until equality in front of the law will become a reality in our country.” The Equally Wed heart is a trademark of Palladino Publishing, LLC.

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Featured image by York Foto