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28 November 2015
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No obligation to legalise gay marriage, rules European court
25 July 2014 12:01

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that a state’s refusal to legalise same-sex marriage does not violate the continent’s rights convention. The fact that some European states have allowed gay marriage does not oblige others to follow suit, it said on 16 July.

A 51-year-old Finnish citizen who had a sex-change operation in 2009 to become a woman brought the case when officials refused to recognise her new gender identity because she wanted to remain married to her wife of 18 years. The couple had a child in 2002.

Since same-sex marriage is not legal in Finland, a local court had ruled the couple would have to have their relationship turned into a civil union or divorce.

They refused to do this for religious reasons and because they thought a civil union did not provide the same security as marriage. The European Court ruled this requirement did not violate the applicant’s protection from discrimination.

The court said in a statement that states had a legitimate interest in “keeping intact the traditional institution of marriage” and said it was not too much to ask the applicant to accept a civil union because it afforded almost the same legal protection as marriage.