“We are living in the 21st century, in the E.U.,” he added. “It is the right time to start recognizing these families as families.”
Thirteen of the European Union’s 28 member states currently allow same-sex marriage, while a further nine allow civil unions or something similar. Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have neither.
Robert Wintemute, a professor of human rights law at King’s College London, said that the principle that spouses include same-sex partners will now be immediately binding for all courts in the bloc’s current member states, and for those in any countries that join later.
It could also put pressure on the six member states without legal recognition of same-sex unions to introduce some form of legislation, he added.
The verdict was widely expected. In January, a senior legal adviser to the court, Advocate General Melchior Wathelet, issued an opinion that highlighted the evolution of member states’ views on same-sex marriage over the previous decade.
Definitions of marriage as a union only between two people of the opposite sex were no longer generally accepted by European Union countries, he said.
The couple’s lawyer, Iustina Ionescu, described the case as “not just about same-sex marriage but about what the E.U. stands for — dignity, equality, respect for basic freedoms for all of us.”