The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Germany / CherryX|Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 3.0

Washington D.C., Feb 6, 2023 / 09:55 am (CNA).

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Jan. 17 that Russia violated the human rights of three homosexual couples because the government did not have any formal legal recognition of those unions under Russian law.

Two female homosexual couples and one male homosexual couple claimed Russia’s failure to recognize their request for homosexual marriages violated the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights. One of the couples brought their claims to the court in 2010 and the other two brought their claims in 2014, while Russia was subject to the European Convention on Human Rights because of an international treaty. Although Russia backed out of the treaty on Sept. 16, 2022, the court ruled that it still had jurisdiction because the country was subject to the treaty when the claims were originally brought before the court.

The court ruled in the case of Fedotova v. Russia that Russia did not need to recognize homosexual marriage under the convention but that it needed to have some formal legal recognition of same-sex couples, such as civil unions, as long as the homosexual couples had similar legal rights to married couples. 

According to the court, the Russian government argued that “it was necessary to preserve the traditional institutions of marriage and the family” because they are “fundamental values of Russian society that were protected by the Constitution.” The court ruled against that argument, claiming that the recognition of these unions would not jeopardize the rights of heterosexual couples. 

“There is no basis for considering that affording legal recognition and protection to same-sex couples in a stable and committed relationship could in itself harm families constituted in the traditional way or compromise their future or integrity,” the court ruled.

“Indeed, the recognition of same-sex couples does not in any way prevent different-sex couples from marrying or founding a family corresponding to their conception of that term,” the court ruled. “More broadly, securing rights to same-sex couples does not in itself entail weakening the rights secured to other people or other couples. … The Court considers that the protection of the traditional family cannot justify the absence of any form of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples in the present case.”

Although Russia does not have an explicit ban on homosexual marriage, according to the court, Article 1 of the Russian Family Code defines marriage as a “voluntary marital union between a man and a woman” and does not include any recognition of homosexual marriages. The court also noted that the form for a notice of marriage contains two fields, one for the man and one for the woman, which means the form’s structure prevents it from being used to marry homosexual couples. There is no alternative legal recognition of homosexual couples in Russia. 

The homosexual couples sought €50,000 (more than $54,000) in damages, but the court stated that its common practice is to only award money to offset the costs and expenses incurred through the proceedings. Because the applicants did not submit any claims for those costs, the court did not award any monetary damages. 

Homosexual unions are legally recognized in 21 of the 27 countries in the European Union and homosexual marriages are legally recognized in only 14 of them. 

The consistent teaching of the Catholic Church is that marriage is between a man and a woman. As Pope Francis noted in Amoris Laetitia, quoting the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” 

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