European Court Rules Same-Sex Partnership a Right

Today, HRC hailed the historic ruling by the European Court on Human Rights that all signatories to the European Convention of Human Rights - including countries like Turkey and Russia, where discrimination and violence against LGBT people has recently made headlines - should recognize same-sex partnerships. This ruling, which could impact 47 countries, and 800 million people, is a major step in granting greater rights and equality to LGBT people across Europe, and around the world.

The case, Oliary and Others v. Italy, was brought by plaintiffs urging Italy to recognize their legal partnerships that had been granted outside of Italy. While arguing that same-sex partnership recognition is a right, this ruling allows signatory countries to choose which form of recognition they wish confer. HRC calls on all country signatories to embrace full marriage equality.

“This ruling makes clear that same-sex partnerships deserve to be recognized, protected, and celebrated, and we urge all signatories to do so,” said Jean Freedberg, Deputy Director of HRC Global. “From the victorious national referendum in Ireland in May to the historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court last month, the momentum for equality reaches around the globe.”

Italy is the only country in Western Europe with no legal form of recognition for same-sex couples. As partnership recognition continues to be debated in parliament, this ruling increases the pressure on opponents of LGBT equality. However, not all rulings of the European Court on Human Rights are strictly implemented, and experts caution that immediate consequences of this ruling might be limited.

But Freedberg added, “By calling same-sex partnership recognition a right, the court has made clear to LGBT people across Europe that their unions matter and that their love is equal and should be treated as such.”

The situation for LGBT people around the world varies widely. As some countries embrace equality, in others, LGBT people continue to suffer from discrimination, persecution, and violence.


  • 25 countries and territories now have marriage equality.
  • In 10 countries, same sex activity is punishable by death, and  75 countries criminalize same-sex relationships. Hundreds of transgender individuals have been brutally murdered in the last year.
  • In a growing number of countries, governments have sought to silence equality advocates and organizations with so-called “anti-propaganda” laws and legislation.
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