The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Tuesday ordered Russia to recognize same-sex unions. The ruling came in response to an appeal by three gay couples who were denied the ability to marry by Russian authorities. It remains to be seen whether Russia will implement the court’s ruling.
A bench of 17 judges presided over the proceedings. Twelve of the justices joined the court’s judgment while two partially dissented and three fully dissented.
Court President Judge Síofra O’Leary wrote in the judgment that Russian authorities’ conduct violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which reads:
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
In June 2010, the Strasbourg-based court ruled that the Convention allows for same-sex marriages but does not require states to perform them. While Tuesday’s ruling maintains that states are not required to recognize same-sex unions “in the form of marriages,” they still have to provide couples with a path to legal recognition.
The Russian government submitted that it was too early for the country to recognize same-sex unions as Russian society was not ready. In response, the Grand Chamber opined that the “Convention is a living instrument which must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions and of the ideas prevailing in democratic States today”.
Russia has strict laws restricting the dissemination of so-called “LGBT propaganda.” These laws make it a crime to distribute information about LGBT relationships to children and to engage in some pro-LGBT speech. Russia previously ignored a 2013 ECHR ruling against these laws.
Currently, 30 out of the 46 member states of Council of Europe legally recognize same-sex unions. The remaining 16 include – Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Türkiye and Ukraine.