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European same-sex marriage right 'only a matter of time'

June 28, 2010 12:59 PM

The European Court of Human Rights last week ruled against a claim by an Austrian same-sex couple that the authorities' refusal to allow them to marry was a breach of their rights to marry, to a family life and to non-discrimination, all of which are protected by the European human rights convention. But it did so only narrowly, signalling a prospect of a more liberal interpretation in future.

Liberal Democrat European justice & human rights spokeswoman and London MEP Sarah Ludford, vice-chair of Delga and an active member of the European Parliament lesbian & gay rights intergroup, commented: "The Strasbourg court's ruling was disappointing for this couple but held out great hope for the prospect of a right to gay marriage. The Court came remarkably close - a 4 to 3 vote - to siding with the applicants and made a big step forward in recognising that 'family' includes a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a stable partnership."

"It was also notable that the judges referred with apparent admiration to their 'sister convention', the European Union's own Charter of fundamental rights. This is more modern and progressive than the 1950 ECHR and does not link marriage only to a man and a woman."

"This citing of the EU Charter heralds a fruitful and upwardly mobile competition and co-operation between the 2 European human rights systems. I'm convinced that it's only a matter of time before European courts decide there is indeed a right under European human rights law for same-sex couples to marry."