European human rights court rejects gay marriage bid

European nations are not legally obliged to to allow same sex marriages, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled.

The court said that individual countries were best placed to decide on their own laws on this this issue.

Two Austrian men brought a case to the court saying their fundamental rights were breached because Austria does not recognise same sex marriage.

But the court said there was no Europe-wide consensus on the issue.

The judges said there was “an emerging European consensus” that same sex partnerships should have legal recognition, but said individual states could decide how far they went in recognising the legal status of partnerships.

There are “deep rooted social and cultural connotations which may differ largely from one society to another” the court said.


[The European Court of Human Rights is not an institution of the European Union]

The ruling is interesting. I once had correspondence with someone in Germany who say that that the EU was a major force in advancing LGBT rights. Of course, as you note, the European Court of Human Rights is not part of the European Union (EU).

If I remember correctly, the European Court of Human Rights doesn’t have any enforcement, other than expulsion from the Council of Europe (which is not the EU.)

So what is the significance of this ruling?

Well, as far as I understand it, the case was brought under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides a right for women and men of marriageable age to marry and establish a family. The Court has never to date applied the protection of this article to same-sex marriage.

In this ruling, the Court appears to be once again accepting that this article applies only to different-sex marriage and that, despite impressions to the contrary, only a small minority of the 47 member-states of the Council of Europe – six in all – recognise same-sex marriage.

The decision also means that Council of Europe member-states are not obliged by the Convention to recognise same-sex marriage or civil partnerships and that this does not amount to discrimination.

In this case, the Court doesn’t need to be able to enforce its ruling; member countries are free to legislate for same-sex unions or not.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit