Lesbian couple launch landmark gay marriage case in Serbia

A lesbian couple is fighting to win legal recognition for same-sex partnerships in Serbia, declaring: “We want more than the right to march in a parade once a year.”

The landmark case is the first ever legal challenge of this kind to be raised in the former Soviet country. Homosexuality was decriminalised there in 1994, but discrimination is common and same-sex marriages or civil partnerships are not recognised.

Jelena Dubovi and Suncica Kopunovic, who have been dating for four years, say the laws “have to change.”

“As not many same-sex couples in Serbia are willing to step out, we decided to stand for all of us and try to fight and aim to win,” said Dubovi, 27, who proposed in 2016.

Jelena Dubovi and Suncica Kopunovic

Jelena Dubovi and Suncica Kopunovic: “We got sick of hiding who we are” (crowdjustice.com)

She told Reuters: “We are not afraid… we got sick of hiding who we are, because that is actually nothing bad. We just love each other, which is absolutely a normal thing.”

The couple have hired a litigator supported by the Equal Rights Trust and are preparing to take their case to the Serbian Commissioner for Equality, followed by an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

They have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise the £7,500 in legal fees needed to fight their case.

Dubovi and Kopunovic’s lawyer, Marjana Majstorovic, said the case could make it to the European Court of Human Rights, but this might take three to five years of “legal wrangling.”

LGBT+ rights in Serbia fall far behind neighbouring countries

Although Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabić, is openly gay, overall LGBT+ rights are poor in the Eastern European country. Same-sex couples struggle to buy property, take out loans and visit one another in hospital.

In 2017 Amnesty International said Serbian authorities “failed to protect LGBTI individuals and organisations from discrimination, threats and physical attacks.”

By placing themselves in the public eye, Dubovi and Kopunovic know they are likely to face abuse.

Whatever we do, not everyone in Serbia will support our case and we need to be prepared for some backlash.

Despite this, they have chosen to use their full names, describing themselves as the first same-sex couple in Serbia to talk openly about their fight.

“We know that, whatever we do, not everyone in Serbia will support our case and we need to be prepared for some backlash,” the couple say on their crowdfunding page.

“By rejecting anonymity, we are fighting not only for our rights, but also for the rights of those who are unable to stand up and fight.

“We want to live up to the description of us in Politika (the oldest newspaper on the Balkans) as ‘women who gave their faces and names to thousands.'”