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Romania: Same-Sex Marriage Decision Postponed

(Sept. 27, 2016) On September 20, 2016, the High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania, for the second time, postponed making a decision on recognizing a same-sex marriage concluded between a Romanian citizen and a non-Romanian outside the country. The decision was previously postponed in July, with the Court saying it needed more time to consider the matter, and now a ruling is expected on October 27. Romania does not have legal same-sex marriage domestically. (Romanian Court Again Postpones Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage, ABC NEWS (Sept. 20, 2016).)

The High Court of Cassation and Justice (HCCJ) was established as the supreme court of Romania under a 2004 law. It has nine members and decides cases based on majority opinion. (Id.; High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania, HCCJ website (last visited Sept. 26, 2016); Law No. 304 on Judicial Organization (June 28, 2004), HCCJ website (in Romanian).)

Background

A U.S. citizen, Claibourn Robert Hamilton, and a Romanian, Adrian Coman, who were married six years ago in Belgium, sued to have their marriage recognized in Romania; they are represented by an attorney, Iustina Ionescu, who is a board-member of ACCEPT, a Romanian civil rights organization that also employs Coman. In 2012 the couple began attempting to have their marriage sanctioned, because they hoped to move to Romania for work and, later in life, retire there.   Romanian immigration officials did not recognize their marriage. (Romanian Court Again Postpones Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage, supra; Gwenyth Gamble, Romania Court to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage Recognition, PAPER CHASE (Sept. 19, 2016).) Unless formal recognition is given to the relationship, Coman’s American spouse will not be permitted to reside in Romania. At present he can only stay in the country for three months at a time. (The Coman-Hamilton Case, ACCEPT website (last visited Sept. 26, 2016).)

Views on the Case

Coman expressed his frustration with the delay in the decision, although he did approve of the judges giving the issue careful consideration. He advocated the passage of a law on civil partnerships, which would allow Hamilton to live in Romania. Coman said, “Nobody else’s rights are infringed upon if Clai gets residence in Romania, or if he can talk to a doctor as my spouse if I am in the emergency room in Bucharest.” (Romanian Court Again Postpones Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage, supra.) His attorney argued that the Court should recognize that the right to privacy and family is guaranteed by the Constitution for all and that the Court should not be “influenced by social or political groups that are pleading against equal rights for LGBT persons.” (Id.)

The Alliance of Romanian Families has a different view, arguing that recognizing Coman and Hamilton’s marriage would be traumatic for Romania. David Tut, a spokesperson for the group, said, “[w]e are a Christian country … and we accept traditional families as they are defined in the Bible.” (Id.)