ILGA-Europe Regrets EU Court Decision In Same-Sex Partnership Case

A Swedish man, employee of the EU Council of Ministers, married to another man under the Swedish registered partnership law had asked his employer to treat him (and his partner) like his married heterosexual colleagues (and their spouses) under the terms of the EU Staff Regulations and thus claimed household allowance. The Council refused, so he brought the case before the Court which rejected his plaint last Thursday, 28 January 1999.

"We are extremely disappointed", declared Jackie Lewis, co-chair of ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, "that the EU Court of First Instance refused to include registered partners in the definition of 'spouse' for in Sweden, registered partnership is considered to be the equivalent to marriage for same-sex couples. To recognise this would only have been logical because the EU Staff Regulations prohibit both discrimination based on sex and, since April 1998, explicitly also based on sexual orientation.

The Court, however, refused to apply this provision because the request for household allowance was made before April 1998!"

"Once more, as in its February 1998 decision in the Lisa Grant case, the European Court failed to apply the principle of equality and non-discrimination to a same-sex relationship. The right to respect of the private and family life has, once more, been denied to same-sex couples",adds ILGA-Europe board member Alberto Volpato, himself an employee of an EU institution and member of Égalité, the organisation for lesbian/gay equality in the European institution. "It is rather shocking that, 50 years after the Universal Declaration on Human Rights was signed and at the eve of the entry into force of the Amsterdam Treaty which, in its article 13, pledges to combat sexual orientation discrimination, gay and lesbian citizens of the EU are being refused by the EU Court the fundamental right of being treated like everyone else."

"We hope", says Danish ILGA-Europe board member Steffen Jensen, "that the Scandinavian member states and the Netherlands and France, which have or will soon have same-sex partnership legislation, will not acquiesce in this decision and work for the recognition of the full rights of registered partners by both the EU institutions and all member states because the present situation causes severe limits to the freedom of movement within the EU of gays and lesbians."

The Swedish Government had provided full support to the complaint of the Swedish EU employee before the European Court.

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