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23rd Jun 2017

Timmermans calls for same-sex marriage across EU

  • Timmermans: 'There is no reason for homophobia. There is no reason to discriminate' (Photo: ILGA-Europe)

The vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, wants same-sex marriage recognised throughout all member states.

“The commission should go forward and try to get all member states in the EU to unreservedly accept same-sex marriage as other marriages”, he said at a gala organised last week in Brussels by ILGA-Europe, a gay rights NGO.

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The EU executive cannot propose bills on marriage and family affairs, policy areas reserved for national governments.

Instead, Timmermans' overt support for the cause is seen as political pressure on capitals.

“This is an issue very close to him personally and I imagine he spoke addressing individually EU member states, not even thinking about the EU context”, said a spokesperson from ILGA-Europe.

Same-sex marriages in the EU are valid in Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and the UK (except northern Ireland).

Finland has passed new marriage equality legislation, but it won’t enter into law until 2017. Slovenia is also on the verge of accepting same-sex marriages, but may have to go to a referendum first. In May, Ireland in a referendum voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

Mutual recognition

ILGA-Europe is instead hoping the commission will push for mutual recognition as part of the larger “principle of the freedom of movement”, which is an EU competence.

It means same-sex married couples would be recognised as married no matter where they live in the EU.

Timmermans agrees.

At the gala he said member states where same-sex marriage is banned should have “the decency to respect the decision of other countries to have same sex-marriage recognised”.

“The fact that when people move to another country they run into all sorts of idiotic problems that married couples who aren't from the same sex never run into, I think that is a disgrace”.

ILGA says the lack of such recognition poses a major problem for couples transferred from a company, for instance, based in France, to a subsidiary based in Austria.

“We see it as an issue of freedom of movement because basically the lack of mutual recognition undermines the whole principle”, said ILGA-Europe’s spokesperson.

Children of same sex couples

Mutual recognition also applies to children of couples who are in a same-sex relationship.

If a married lesbian couple in Denmark take their child to Italy on a holiday break then the non-biological mother no longer has any rights as a parent or as a partner.

Should the biological mother and child end up in the hospital in Italy, then the non-biological mother would have no legal rights on their behalf under Italian law.

Same-sex couples with children may therefore choose to avoid countries that have no co-parent recognition. But their destination of choice in the EU would be severely limited.

Aside from Italy, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden also have no co-parent recognition.

Timmermans, for his part, said the only thing children need is loving parents.

“Who gives a damn if these two loving parents are two men or two women?”, he said.

This article was updated on 30 June, 2015 at 9:00 to include Ireland as among the member states backing same-sex marriage

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