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Montenegro: New Law Establishing Registration of Same-Sex Partnerships Enters into Force

(Aug. 5, 2020) On July 3, 2020, the president of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović, signed Decree No. 01-1337 / 2 on the Promulgation of the Law on the Same-Sex Life Partnership. The president issued the decree two days after the Skupština Crne Gore (the Parliament of Montenegro) passed the Law on the Same-Sex Life Partnership (Law No. 868 of July 1, 2020.)

Forty-two lawmakers in the 81-seat Parliament backed the law, which required 41 votes for passage. Members of the Parliament from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS); the Social Democrats; the Liberal Party; and the opposition party, the Social Democratic Party, comprised the votes for passing the legislation. Five MP’s voted against and the rest claimed during the June 30 debate that the law was being imposed by the “world Satanists” and abstained from voting.

The law enters into force on the eighth day after its publication in the Official Gazette of Montenegro, but the law’s provisions stipulate that its implementation (the issuing of certificates of partnership, etc.) will begin one year after it enters into force. (Art. 76.)

The new law recognizes same-sex partnerships as legal unions, regulates the establishment and termination of same-sex life partnerships, and provides for the maintenance a national register of partnerships that records the rights and obligations of persons who have entered into a same-sex partnership. A same-sex partnership is to be based “[o]n the principles of equality, mutual respect, mutual assistance and respect for partners.” (Art. 1.)

To enter into a same-sex partnership, both partners must be older than 18 years of age (art. 8) and have full legal capacity (art. 10). Partnerships between individuals who are not blood relatives (including cousins) or relatives through adoption can be registered. (Art. 11.) Also, neither of the partners can be married or be a partner in another civil partnership. (Art. 9.)

Article 19 stipulates that the termination of the partnership while both partners are alive must be conducted in accordance with a court ruling.

The law does not include provisions allowing the registered partners to adopt children. Although the law does not recognize same-sex partnership as a marriage, it mandates that the partners have the same obligations toward each other’s children as they would in a marriage. (Art. 52.)

Article 53 allows a non-parental partner to make decisions concerning the rights of the other partner’s children in emergency situations, while provisions of article 54 grant partners the same rights as in the case of marriage with regard to disputes over the protection of their children’s rights.

Law No. 868 regulates the ownership of the partners’ assets. For example, partners have the right to inherit from each other, and the tax status of the partners is regulated in the same way as in the case of a traditional marriage. (Arts. 55 & 67.)

To register the partnership, at least one of the partners must be a citizen of Montenegro. If the other partner is a foreigner, the law allows that partner to obtain a permanent or temporary residence permit in Montenegro. (Art. 70.)

The passage of the law was preceded by the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro’s adoption in March 2019 of the National Strategy on Improving the Quality of Life of LGBTI People in Montenegro for 2019–2023. The National Strategy recommended that a legal framework for gender recognition in Montenegro be put in place by the end of 2023 and that international standards be respected when doing so.

After the adoption of the law, President Milo Đukanović wrote on his Twitter account that the adoption of the Law on the Same-Sex Life Partnership is “[a] confirmation that our society is maturing, accepting and living the differences. Born free and equal in dignity and rights!”