Sep 13, 2023

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Bulgaria must recognise same-sex marriages conducted in other countries, even though it does not allow same-sex marriage within its own borders.

The case arose because a Bulgarian same-sex couple who married in the UK in 2016 wanted their marriage recognised in their country after they moved back, which Bulgaria refused to do.

The couple complained to the ECHR, claiming that the inability to obtain any form of legal recognition of their union constituted discrimination on the grounds of their right to family life.

Unfortunately, the Court agreed, stating: “It is clear to the Court that to date the Bulgarian authorities have taken no steps to have adequate legal regulations adopted with regard to the recognition of unions between persons of the same sex.”

While the ECHR’s ruling does not oblige Bulgaria to legalise same-sex marriage, it does mean that the country must put in place a framework giving some form of legal recognition to same-sex couples.

A Bulgarian LGBT rights group, Deystvie, called the decision “key and fundamental for the development of Bulgarian legislation in the field of equality and LGBTI rights”.

It is highly disappointing that the ECHR has determined that states have a human rights obligation to recognise same-sex marriages. It’s an example of pure judicial activism based on changing social norms.

Clearly, when the Convention was written, those drafting and endorsing it did not believe it required recognition of same-sex marriage or intend for it to do so, as same-sex marriage didn’t even exist. Yet without any amendments or changes to the Convention text, in 2023 such ‘human rights’ are suddenly discovered in it, and a country’s sovereign right to make this decision for itself is demolished.

At C4M we call on the ECHR judges to respect the right of countries to make decisions on marriage via their own democratic processes and stop the weaponising of ‘human rights’ against traditional man-woman marriage.