The top European Union court ruled Tuesday member nations must allow same-sex couples the same residency rights as heterosexual couples. File photo by Olivier Hoslet/EPA-EFE
June 5 (UPI) -- A top European Union court ruled Tuesday that countries must allow same-sex couples the same residency rights as heterosexual couples, regardless of whether gay marriage is legal.
In the landmark decision, the EU court ruled Brussels' freedom of movement law, which allows for a spouse to join his or her partner residing in an EU country, applies to same-sex couples. Specifically, the court said the term "spouse" doesn't exclusively refer to heterosexuality.
The EU Court of Justice said in its ruling freedom of movement could also be subject to certain legitimate restrictions, like public interest considerations.
The court ruling, which would set a precedent across the 28-member bloc, does not force EU states to recognize gay marriage.
"Although the member states have the freedom whether or not to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex, they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU Member State, a derived right of residence in their territory," the court said.
The ruling involves a marriage between Romanian citizen Adrian Coman and his American partner, Clai Hamilton. Hamilton was denied residency in Romania because gay marriage is illegal in the country.
"Romanian citizens cannot be divided into good and gay," Coman said. "We can no longer be treated as inferior citizens without equal rights on the basis of the prejudices that some people have about homosexuality."
Coman said after Tuesday's ruling, "Human dignity wins today."
"We can now look in the eyes of any public official in Romania and across the EU with certainty that our relationship is equally valuable and equally relevant," Coman said.
"Great news and a milestone for rainbow families across Europe," Sophie in't Veld, vice president of the European Parliament's LGBTI intergroup, said in a statement. "Member States that do not recognize same-sex marriage must also recognize the rights of LGBTI couples. Free movement of persons is a right of all Europeans, regardless of who you are and who you love. "