All EU Countries Must Recognize Same-Sex Parents and Their Children, Top Court Says

The top court in the European Union has ordered that all 27 countries must recognize same-sex couples and families.

The European Court of Justice officially ruled in favor of two married mothers in Bulgaria whose adopted daughter, born in Spain, could not receive a Bulgarian birth certificate. In the court ruling, judges said that a "refusal [to obtain a birth certificate] could make it more difficult for a Bulgarian identity document to be issued and, therefore, hinder the child's exercise of the right of free movement and thus full enjoyment of her rights as a Union citizen."

Kalina Ivanova and British citizen Jane Jones, who was born in Gibraltar, were unable to obtain a birth certificate for their daughter, Sara, since neither woman is Spanish and Jones is unable to transfer citizenship under the British Nationality Act of 1981. When attempting to obtain Bulgarian citizenship under Ivanova, their child became stateless due to that country not recognizing same-sex couples.

However, this ruling changes that. The court said that Sara and her mothers could be "recognized by all member states as having the right, as parents of a Union citizen who is a minor and of whom they are the primary carers, to accompany that child when she is exercising her rights."

Sofia Gay Pride
The European Union's top court recently ruled in favor of same-sex parents and their children in the 27-nation bloc. On December 14, 2021, the European Court of Justice said that a child with two mothers certified in one EU nation must be similarly recognized by other EU members. Above, an activist carries a rainbow flag during a gay pride rally in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia on September 21, 2013. AP Photo/Valentina Petrova, File

Sixteen out of 27 countries in the EU recognize same-sex marriage, including Spain. Bulgaria is among the 11 countries that do not.

"This is a true testament to the EU being a union of equality, and 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 Arpi Avetisyan of Europe's LGBTI rights group ILGA.

The court noted that in Bulgaria, where there is no same-sex marriage, the birth certificate has one box for "mother" and another for "father," where only one name may appear. The Bulgarian mother of the child objected.

The EU includes 16 nations with legal same-sex marriage, of about 30 nations overall in the world.

ILGA indicates that this latest ruling reinforces last year's statement by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, when she defended LGBT rights by saying, "If you are parent in one country, you are parent in every country."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.