Human rights court: Europe cannot be forced to redefine marriage

Wedding Rings. Credit: Petr Kratochvil (CC0 1.0)

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the refusal to recognize same-sex “marriages” does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a July 16 ruling, the human rights court explained that while “some Contracting States have extended marriage to same-sex partners,” European laws establishing the right of men and women to freely marry “cannot be construed as imposing an obligation on the Contracting States to grant access to marriage to same-sex couples.”

The applicant to the high European human rights court brought his petition after Finland refused to recognize the his 2009 sex change from male to female.

Finland, which does not recognize same-sex “marriages,” said it could not recognize the sex change of a person validly married to a person of the opposite sex. The country said it could only recognize the applicant’s new identity if his marriage to his wife was dissolved either by divorce or transformation into a civil partnership.

The applicant claimed that this refusal to accept same-sex “marriages” and its impact on the recognition of his new identity was a violation of his human rights.

However, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that Finland’s refusal to recognize same-sex unions does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

While the convention establishes the ability “to marry and have a family” as a right, the court stated that the document cannot be interpreted as requiring marriage to be defined in a way that includes same-sex couples.

The European Convention on Human Rights, the court explained, “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.”

The court also noted that applicants cannot claim “that there exists any European consensus on allowing same-sex marriages,” given that only 10 member states of the European Union recognize such unions, and the majority of countries recognize marriage as a union between one man and one woman.


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