All EU nations must recognise children of same-sex parents, court rules in ‘huge step for LGBT+ families’

a stock image of a child playing with their parent

The European Union’s (EU) top court has ruled that Bulgaria must issue identity papers to a child of same-sex parents, and that all EU nations must respect such families.

The ruling came after authorities in Bulgaria refused to issue a birth certificate for a child, named Sara, who was born in 2019 to a married same-sex couple: Bulgarian born Kalina Ivanova and Gibraltar-born Jane Jones (not their real names).

Sara was born in Spain, but she couldn’t be considered for Spanish citizenship as neither of her mothers was a citizen of the country. Jones then applied for Sara to be a UK citizen, but this was denied as Jones was born in Gibraltar and not in the UK. As such, she couldn’t pass on her citizenship to her child.

Bulgaria denied Sara citizenship as the country doesn’t recognise same-sex marriages. It noted that the current model of birth certificates in Bulgaria only has one box for “mother” and another for “father”, and “only one name may appear in each box”.

As a result, Sara was left with no documentation of any kind, which posed a significant risk to her ability to access health, education and social security. It also prevented her family from leaving Spain.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Tuesday (14 December) that Bulgaria’s refusal to issue identity documents could hinder the “child’s exercise of the right of free movement and thus full enjoyment of her rights as a Union citizen”.

The court ruled that Bulgaria must recognise the Spanish birth certificate that was issued to Sara, which lists both her mothers as her parents, but does not need to issue a Bulgarian birth certificate. It stressed that all member states must “recognise that parent-child relationship in order to enable [the child] to exercise, with each of her parents, her right of free movement”.

The CJEU asserted that Bulgarian authorities must issue an identity card or a passport to Sara. The court added all other EU member states must recognise these identity papers to allow Sara freedom of movement alongside her parents.

Jones and Ivanova said in a statement with IGLA-Europe that they are “thrilled” by the court’s decision and “cannot wait to get Sara her documentation”.

“It is important for us to be a family, not only in Spain but in any country in Europe and finally it might happen,” they added. “This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe.”

Arpi Avetisyan, head of litigation for IGLA-Europe, said the CJEU’s judgment is a “true testament” to the EU being a “union of equality”.

Avetisyan added the group looked forward to seeing more “rainbow families enjoying their right to freedom of movement and other fundamental rights on equal footing to anyone else”.

“It is important that the judgment is implemented imminently, not only for baby Sara and her family, but also for other families facing similar struggles across the EU,” Avetisyan said.

The IGLA-Europe said the ruling also solidified European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s comment that: “If you are a parent in one country, you are parent in every country”.

​​Von der Leyen has come out in defence of LGBT+ rights multiple times in the past. Earlier this year, she backed a resolution that declared the EU as a “LGBTIQ freedom zone”.

The resolution declared that queer people “everywhere in the EU should enjoy the freedom to live and publicly show their sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of intolerance, discrimination or persecution”.

​​Von der Leyen tweeted her support for the resolution, saying that “being yourself is not an ideology”.

She wrote: “No one can ever take it away. The EU is your home. The EU is a #LGBTIQFreedomZone.”