European rights court rules against Ukraine in same-sex union case

by Reuters
Friday, 2 June 2023 08:23 GMT

An LGBT activist attends a rally against Homophobia and Transphobia in Kiev, Ukraine, May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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The European Court of Human Rights ruled a same-sex couple who tried unsuccessfully to get married at seven different register offices in Ukraine suffered discrimination

PARIS, June 1 (Reuters) - A same-sex couple who tried unsuccessfully to get married at seven different register offices in Ukraine suffered discrimination, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday.

The verdict, in a case brought to the court by plaintiffs Andrii Maimulakhin and Andrii Markiv in 2014, adds to calls for increased protection for and recognition of LGBTQ rights in the country, whose constitution still describes marriage as between a man and a woman.

The couple's "sexual orientation had been the sole basis for the difference in treatment," the court said.

"(Ukraine's) broadly worded aim of the protection of the traditional family could not in itself be accepted as a valid ground for justifying the denial" of equal rights, it added.

The court ruled that Ukraine, a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, had violated articles on discrimination and the right to private and family life.

A spokesman for Olga Stefanishyna, the minister overseeing Ukraine's European integration, did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

A January survey by the National Democratic Institute and the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that 56% of Ukrianians support same-sex civil partnerships, while 24% oppose it.

But such partnerships did not enjoy majority support prior to Russia's invasion in February 2022, and gay pride marches have been met with violent opposition from Ukrainian far-right groups.

The invasion has made the issue of recognition for same-sex couples more urgent, especially for those serving as soldiers.

In case of injury or death, only legal family members can have a say in a soldier's medical treatment or be eligible for social benefits.

"The current situation that we have is unjust," Inna Sovsun, an opposition MP spearheading an initiative to legalise civil partnerships, told Reuters in May, noting a desire inside the country to oppose the anti-LGBTQ stance of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Legalisation is still opposed by conservative parts of Ukrainian society and the church, though President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is currently considering a petition and he could request that parliament draft a law.

Last year, Zelenskiy responded positively to a related petition but said it was not possible to alter the constitution, during wartime.

Reporting by Layli Foroudi and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by David Holmes and John Stonestreet
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