European court urges Russia to acknowledge same-sex unions

MOSCOW — A top European human rights court issued a ruling Tuesday urging Russia to recognize same-sex unions, but the Kremlin was quick to respond that same-sex marriage was “not allowed” in Russia in accordance with constitutional amendments adopted last year.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled in a case that three Russian same-sex couples filed after Russian officials rejected their attempts to get married. The court found that Russia violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlines a right to respect for private and family life.

Russia “had an obligation to ensure respect for the applicants’ private and family life by providing a legal framework allowing them to have their relationships acknowledged,” the court stated.

The court rejected the Russian government’s argument about widespread public disapproval of same-sex unions. saying that “access to rights for a minority could not be dependent on the acceptance of the majority.”

Commenting on the ruling Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said same-sex marriages in Russia were “according to our constitution, not allowed.”

Amendments to the Russian Constitution that were adopted last year emphasized the primacy of Russian law over international norms and stipulated that the “institution of marriage is a union between a man and a woman,” thereby explicitly outlawing same-sex marriages. The amendments also allowed President Vladimir Putin to stay in power for two more six-year terms after 2024.

In Tuesday’s ruling, however, the European Court of Human Rights said that Russia could give same-sex couples “access to formal acknowledgment of their couples’ status in a form other than marriage” which would not conflict with the “traditional understanding on marriage” that prevails in Russia.

Natalia Zviagina, director of Amnesty International’s office in Moscow, said the court’s “landmark decision underlines that the Russian government is on the wrong side of history, supporting and enabling homophobia, and depriving LGBTI people of their basic human rights.”