The EU Court of Justice [official website] ruled [press release, PDF] Thursday that in countries in which same-sex couples cannot legally marry, same-sex couples in a legal union are entitled to the same legal benefits as married couples. The case stemmed from an employment benefits issue in France that was appealed to the court before the country legalized same-sex marriage [JURIST report] in May. The court ruled on the issue despite the country's legalization of same-sex marriage. It held that a union in which two partners commit to live together and provide for each other in a way that makes them legally bound to one another is analogous to a marriage agreement and, thus, makes the couple entitled to the same benefits as married couples when marriage is not an option to them. It also held that a collective bargaining agreement granting paid leave and a bonus to employees who marry was illegal because it discriminates against same-sex couples who cannot legally marry. The court also rejected all of the public interest reasons offered in support of the collective bargaining agreement, stating that none of them were sufficient to justify the discriminatory nature of the agreement.
Same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue internationally. Earlier this week, Australia's high court struck down legislation [JURIST report] that legalized same-sex marriage because it conflicted with a 1961 law and could not override the legislation unless it was passed by the country's parliament. Weeks earlier, Croatian voters passed a referendum [JURIST report] to amend the country's constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Last month, a same-sex couple in Texas filed a challenge [JURIST report] to a provision of Texas's constitution that bans marriage between same-sex partners and results in the state's not recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages. That same week, the Scottish parliament passed a bill [JURIST report] that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the country.