A Bulgarian court has recognized the marriage of a same-sex couple in a decision that could help pave the way for legalizing marriage equality in the conservative Eastern European country.

The landmark decision comes after at two-year legal battle for Australian citizen Kristina Palma, who married Mariamo Dialo of France. After the two were married in 2016, Palma was granted the right to live, work and travel in Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, and throughout the EU because Dialo is an EU citizen.
But Bulgaria later denied Palma those residency rights, arguing that the country’s constitution only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman and therefore Palma was not able to receive the same benefits of a heterosexual person married to an EU citizen.

First same-sex marriage recognized in Bulgaria
Mariama Diallo and Christina Palma
photo via Gay Star News

The couple took their case to court and on July 24 the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court ruled in their favor, officially recognizing a same-sex marriage in the country for the first time, according to the Associated Press.

Palma celebrated the victory on Twitter. “We did it! We@won the Supre Court case in Bulgaria, which recognized our marriage in the EU, and the right to live in Bulgaria as a fmly!”

Their lawyer Denitsa Lyubenova of LGBT Youth Organization “Deystvie,” a nonprofit organization working for LGBTQ equality, said the ruling could be an important first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage in the country.

“This is a major step forward on the path to equality of homosexual couples in Bulgaria. We still have a long way to go, but action and the lawyers we work with are laying the foundations for a new era in the fight for LGBTI people in Bulgaria,” Lyubenova said on the organization’s website. (Editor’s Note: Translation via Google Translate)

The Bulgarian court ruling follows another ground-breaking decision in 2018 when the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg handed down a ruling that all European Union nations must recognize same-sex marriages from other member states, even if they do not grant marriage equality to their own citizens, according to Pink News.

Bulgaria is located in southeastern Europe and borders Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.

In addition to Bulgaria, other states in the EU that do not legally recognize same-sex marriage are Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia, according to GCN.com.