2021-07-14 00:00:00

ECHR urges Russia to allow same-sex marriages

Moscow, July 14, Interfax - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that Russia violates the right to private life enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights by refusing to allow same-sex marriages.

"As regards same-sex couples, the Court reaffirmed that they were just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into committed relationships, with a need for formal acknowledgment and protection of their relationship. It was incumbent on the States to take that into account, and to strike a balance between their needs and those of community at large," the ECHR said in a statement.

Three same-sex couples went to the ECHR, as they have given notice of their intention to marry at their local registry offices in Russia, but their applications have been rejected for more than ten years. Muscovites Irina Fedotova and Irina Shipitko argued before Moscow's Tverskoy District Court in 2009 that the refusal to accept their notice to marry violated their rights under the constitution and the convention. Their claim was declined because, among other things, the court found that marriage had to have the "voluntary consent of a man and a woman." That court ruling was upheld on appeal.

The couple appealed to the ECHR, which combined their claim with the similar cases of residents of the Lipetsk Region - Dmitry Chunusov and Yaroslav Yevtushenko v. Russia and Elmira Shaikhraznova and Yelena Yakovleva v. Russia. The ECHR found that Russia has violated Article 8 of the convention (the right to respect for private and family life) in relation to these applicants. At the same time, according to the judgement, the court cannot explicitly impose an obligation on the country to acknowledge same-sex marriages, but believes that the authorities need to reach a compromise.

"The Court reiterated that Article 8 did not explicitly impose on States an obligation to formally acknowledge same-sex unions. However, it implied a need to strike a fair balance between the competing interests of same-sex couples and the community as a whole. [...] In particular, regarding the argument that a majority of Russians disapprove of same-sex unions, the Court stated that access to rights for a minority could not be dependent on the acceptance of the majority," the ECHR said in its ruling.

The court reiterated that giving the applicants access to formal acknowledgment of their couples' status in a form other than marriage would not be in conflict with the "traditional understanding of marriage" prevailing in Russia, or with the views of the majority to which the government referred.