European law not required to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples, court rules

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The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that under European law, the 47 member states have no legal obligation to grant same-sex couples the right to marry.

The court came up against the issue when two Austrian men who said their country’s refusal to allow same-sex marriage violated their right to marry and the prohibition of discrimination in European rights law. As reported in the Irish Times, the ECHR said in a statement that, “The court observed that, among Council of Europe member states, there is no consensus regarding same-sex marriage.

“The court has underlined that national authorities were best placed to assess and respond to the needs of society in this field, given that marriage had deep-rooted social and cultural connotations differing largely from one society to another.”

The court also added that despite its ruling, same-sex couples could claim a right to a family life just as heterosexual couples do, but that this still “did not impose an obligation on states to grant same-sex couples access to marriage”.

So far, only seven of the 47 member states of the European Council – of which the ECHR is part – have approved gay marriage: Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Portugal and Sweden.