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Two fathers with their child at a LGBTQ rights rally in Amsterdam

Two men and their son pose with a rainbow umbrella during a demonstration against Hungary's Anti-LGBTQ+ law, organized at the Homomonument in Amsterdam, Netherlands on June 21, 2021. (Photo: Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In 'Huge Step' Toward Equality, Top EU Court Rules Same-Sex Parents Must Be Recognized Across Bloc

"If you are a parent in one country, you are parent in every country."

Julia Conley

A same-sex couple in Spain will be able to obtain citizenship papers for their daughter and same-sex parents across the European Union will no longer be denied recognition by E.U. countries including Bulgaria and Poland, following a ruling by a top European court on Tuesday.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that all nations in the bloc must recognize same-sex couples and their children as families, saying that a failure to do so unjustly restricts movement within the E.U. for the children of LGBTQ+ parents.

The decision gives "legal endorsement" to the idea that "if you are a parent in one country, you are parent in every country," said Arpi Avetisyan, head of litigation at LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA-Europe, repeating the words of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. 

"We are very pleased with CJEU's judgment this morning," said Avetisyan. "The judgment has brought long-awaited clarification that parenthood established in one E.U. member state cannot be discarded by another, under the pretense of protecting the 'national identity.'"

The ruling was handed down in the case of two women—pseudonymously identified as Kalina Ivanova and Jane Jones by ILGA-Europe—whose daughter Sara was born in Spain in 2019.

"This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe."

Ivanova is a Bulgarian citizen and Jones is from the British territory of Gibraltar. Spain recognizes the two women as Sara's parents, but since neither is a citizen of Spain, they were unable to secure Spanish citizenship for the child.

Jones was also unable to transfer her British citizenship to Sara due to the British Nationality Act of 1981, leaving the couple to pursue Bulgarian citizenship for their daughter.

Since Bulgaria does not legally recognize same-sex marriages or partnerships, authorities refused to grant Sara a birth certificate or citizenship, rendering the child stateless and without the rights afforded to children born in the European Union.

According to IGLA-Europe, Bulgaria's treatment of the family has left them unable to leave Spain while restricting Sara's access to education, healthcare, and social security in the country.

In a decision that can't be appealed, the CJEU ruled that depriving a child of an officially recognized relationship with one of their parents while the child is exercising their right to free movement in the E.U. runs counter to Articles 7 and 24 of the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights.

The failure to E.U. nations to recognize the parent-child relationship could also make free movement "impossible or excessively difficult" for the child, the court found.

Bulgarian officials will now be required to issue citizenship and a birth certificate to Sara, and all other E.U. member states will be required to recognize her as a citizen of Bulgaria.

"This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe," said Jones and Ivanova.

ILGA-Europe said the ruling was "a true testament to the E.U. being a union of equality."

"We look forward to seeing rainbow families enjoying their right to freedom of movement and other fundamental rights on equal footing to anyone else," said Avetisyan.

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