European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

Nils Muižnieks: it’s a question of equality

Today, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, issued a Comment on registered partnerships. ILGA-Europe applaud the Commissioner for raising his voice to support the rights of same-sex couples.

Human Rights Comments set out the Commissioner’s assessment and recommendations on various human rights themes. Nils Muižnieks’ latest Comment sums up the issue of access to same-sex partnerships very clearly - it’s a question of equality.

ILGA-Europe warmly welcome today’s Human Rights Comment by Nils Muižnieks. The Commissioner begins by outlining the most recent steps taken in the struggle for equality for recognition of partnerships on the European level.  He highlights the corresponding rights and obligations that go hand-in-hand with legal partnership; emphasising the multiple problems that a lack of recognition can cause for same-sex couples. The Comment also describes the state of play for equal marriage and access to registered partnerships in Europe.

The growing trend in Europe (and beyond) towards recognising same-sex couples relationships is recognised by the Commissioner. A majority – 27 out of 47 – of the Council of Europe’s Member States provide some form of legal arrangement recognising same-sex partnerships. He rightly states that granting rights and benefits to same-sex couples does not take anything away from different-sex couples.

Nils Muižnieks calls out this discriminatory practice. He refers to the growing consensus that a government cannot discriminate against same-sex couples  - based on recent legislative reforms and case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The 2015 Oliari v Italy judgment in particular places a positive obligation on Council of Europe Member States to provide legal recognition to same-sex couples as a way to protect their right to family life.

Finally, the Commissioner makes an explicit recommendation to the 20 remaining Member States of the Council of Europe that still do not provide any legal recognition to same-sex couples. They should enact legislation to create – at the very least – registered partnerships ensuring that the rights available to married or registered different-sex partners are equally available to same-sex partners. Moreover, registered same-sex couples should have the same rights and benefits as married or registered different-sex couples.