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ECJ ruling on same-sex marriage begins to have repercussions across emerging Europe

Lithuania is the latest emerging European country to have been impacted by a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling – made last summer – which states that the same-sex partners of EU citizens have the right to reside in any EU member country.

Lithuania’s Constitutional Court (LRKT) is currently hearing a case filed a same-sex partner of a Lithuanian citizen who was refused a residence permit by the country’s migration department. To date, the migration department has refused to issue residence permits to same-sex partners on the grounds that same-sex marriages and partnerships are illegal in Lithuania.

However, Evelina Gudzinskaite, the director of the migration department, as well as Valerijus Simulikas, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s human rights committee, have agreed that same-sex marriages registered abroad can serve as a basis for foreign spouses to reside lawfully in Lithuania, although both have underlined that this would not grant them any other rights.

“The right to live in the country does not, in itself, grant other rights under other laws,” Ms Gudzinskaite told the LRKT at a hearing on January 3, adding, “there must be a strict separation.”

“I believe that a permit should have been issued in this case,” said Mr Simulikas. However, he too reiterated the fact that “a permit for a family member to live in Lithuania does not oblige the country to change the concept of family under its constitution, which could only be done by referendum or by a vote by a constitutional majority in the Seimas [parliament]. Therefore, the Seimas does not object to issuing same-sex couples married abroad with residence permits.”

The LRKT’s decision is due by the end of January.

In June 2018, the ECJ ruled that EU countries that have not legalised gay marriage must still offer same sex spouses the same residency rights as heterosexual couples under Brussels’ freedom of movement laws. The judgement came after an American man, Clai Hamilton, was denied residency in Romania with Adrian Coman, his Romanian husband, because gay marriage is illegal in that country. Instead he would only be allowed to stay in Romania for three months.