European Parliament resolves to protect gay couples’ inheritance rights

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The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling on member states to ensure gay couples inheritance rights are respect around the EU.

The report adopted by the Parliament says individual countries who do not recognise legal partnerships between gay couples should not be able to deny a gay widow or widower the rights they have to their late spouse’s estate under the law of their home country.

It said a state “should not be able to apply the public-policy exception in order to set aside the law of another State or to refuse to recognise, or, as the case may be, accept, or enforce a decision, an authentic instrument, or a court settlement from another Member State when doing so would be contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular Article 21, which prohibits all forms of discrimination.”

Denmark, the UK and Ireland do not participate in the legislation as they have long exercised an opt-out in some parts of the Parliament’s area of freedom, security and justice policies.

The Parliament made clear the law creates no new inheritance rights but ensures the law under which a couple married can be enforced in another country.

As the LGBT Intergroup explains, a Spanish woman who married an Italian woman under Spain’s equal marriage laws could enforce her Spanish inheritance rights on her deceased partner’s estate in Italy, though Italy does not recognise such unions itself.

Dennis de Jong MEP, Vice-President of the LGBT Intergroup in the European Parliament, said: “Free movement will only become a full reality when all couples can move across the European Union without worrying about their children, their families, their estate, and one another.”

“Death is a terrible moment, and we must make sure the dignity of same-sex partners is protected, even beyond their life.”

Eva Lichtenberger MEP, responsible for the report on behalf of the Greens/EFA group, added: “We are very pleased the European Parliament stands by EU values of equality and non-discrimination in the field of succession. The Rapporteur, Kurt Lechner, also stands firmly by this position and will make sure European governments do not allow discrimination.”

The Parliament also adopted an annual report on gender equality and made recommendations for gay and trans equality in the EU, with particular focus on countries including Lithuania, Romania and Hungary which have defined ‘the family’ in a way which disadvantages gay parents.

The report says the Parliament “regrets the implementation by some Member States of restrictive definitions of ‘family’ in order to deny legal protection to same-sex couples and their children”.

Sophie in ‘t Veld, author of the report and Vice-president of the LGBT Intergroup, explained: “I don’t know what it is about Europe that allows us to recognise bread as bread and cheese as cheese when they go from the Netherlands to Germany, but not love as love. Conservative colleagues keep trying to cage same-sex families in their own country. But freedom of movement is for everyone in the EU, and equality will prevail.”