Court legally recognizes same-sex relationship for the first time in Latvia

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The Administrative District Court has issued a first judgment ruling that found “the existence of a public legal relationship” in a same-sex couple, namely, that there is a family relationship between applicants within the meaning of Article 110 of the Constitution, the court told LETA May 31.

The first sentence of Section 110 of the Constitution states that the State shall protect and support marriage - a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child.

In its judgment, the Court has referred to the Constitutional Court and the Senate in interpreting the meaning of that provision. According to the Constitutional Court and the Senate, the concept of family also covers same-sex couples where there are close personal links between couples, based on understanding and respect.

As previously explained by the Supreme Court, the state has a positive obligation to provide a family of same-sex couples with the possibility to legally strengthen their family relationships and to be recognized as a family by the state. In a situation where no special mechanism has been established for the public legal recognition and strengthening of such family relations, the court must determine, when examining an appropriate application, whether the relationship between the applicants is to be recognized as a family relationship within the meaning of Article 110 of the Constitution.

In examining the case in question, the court concluded that the State has still not fulfilled its duty, namely, neither the Law on the Registration of Civil Status nor any other law has the legislature determined the relevant legal framework – the Saeima has only reached the second reading in viewing the draft Civil Union Law.

Thus, “in order to ensure the effective implementation of the Constitution and human rights”, the Court satisfied their application in the light of the applicants' willingly and directly expressed desire to maintain family relations with each other.

The judgment may be appealed to the Administrative District Court within one month from the date of its delivery.

Former President of the Constitutional Court, Sanita Osipova, told Latvian Radio that 'unfortunately, it appears that in Latvia the question regarding the recognition of a same-sex couple as a family will be handled more quickly through the judicial system rather than through changes to regulatory enactments'.

"The judicial system has been working on this for a very long time. And you have to understand that same-sex couples started to defend their rights in the Administrative Process many years ago,” Osipova said.

The Constitutional Court, the Senate, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice have taken decisions strengthening the right of same-sex couples to establish a family that the state accepts and protects, Osipova said, citing a ruling by the ECHR against Russia:

“The rights of a minority must not depend on the acceptance of a majority. I think that's all to be said."

Osipova said that this is not the only application of a same-sex couple in administrative courts. “That means there will be a load on the judicial system until the legislature sorts the order. Simplified, transparent, protecting fundamental rights so that these couples can choose the procedures already laid down by law."

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