According to this article two men who got married in 2010 and attempted to move to Romania realized that their marriage cannot be recognized:

Romanian LGBT activist Adrian Coman and his American partner, Robert Claibourn Hamiliton, obtained a marriage certificate in Belgium in 2010. This landmark case began in 2012— when the couple attempted to relocate to Romania.

Immigration authorities refused to legally recognise their marriage, so Coman and Hamilton responded by suing the Romanian government on the grounds that their right to freedom of movement within the EU had been violated.

This article shows that Romanian Constitutional Court failed multiple times to reach a conclusion in this case:

Romania’s Constitutional Court (CCR) postponed again on Tuesday, November 29, a decision in the case of the Romanian Adrian Coman and the US-born Clay Hamilton, a gay couple who got married in Belgium and want to have their marriage recognized in Romania.

It is the fourth time when the court postpones a decision in this case.

Indeed, Romanians do not favor same sex marriage and there was initiative to redefine the family in the Constitution to explicitly mention that family = men and woman.

Clearly, the systems works slowly (more than 5 years from the initial case) towards same-sex marriage recognition.

Question: Why is it so hard to obtain same-sex marriage recognition at European Union level?

This would apparently mean just recognizing a special type of contract between two persons and will ensure freedom of movement within EU.

  • 1
    @gnasher729 EU freedom of movement rule does apply if you return to your country of origin after living elsewhere in the EU (through the Surinder Singh ruling you mentioned). Some countries might violate that but that just mean they are violating EU law, it's not up to them to “recognise”. If their circumstances are sufficient to engage the Surinder Singh ruling, they definitely have that right under EU law. But it does not seem to be the point in dispute here (although I am not sure).
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 10:19

2 Answers 2


The reason is quite straightforward and you touch upon it in the question: There is still no consensus on same-sex marriage between EU member countries (just as there isn't on drug harm reduction policies, prostitution, gambling, euthanasia, abortion, or surrogacy). That's also why family and societal issues have always been national matters, which the EU only touches indirectly and to the extent necessary to implement other principles like freedom of movement. From that perspective, gay marriage isn't “just another contract”.

Incidentally, I don't think the plaintiffs in this case see it that way either. The whole point is to push for changes in Romania. There is nothing wrong with that as an activist tactic but I assume they fully expected it would be difficult and mostly want to put the issue on the agenda.


As Relaxed says, they have no case anyway:

Since one of them is a Romanian citizen, they have under EU law the right to move to any country in the EU that recognizes their marriage. The one exception is Romania: EU freedom of movement law doesn't apply when you move to your own country. Germans can't take their US husband or wife to Germany, French can't take their US husband or wife to France, Romanians can't take their US husband or wife to Romania, at least based on EU free movement law. (If you think that's bizarre, I fully agree. It's bizarre that I can legally take a non-EU wife to any country in the EU except my own country. But that's the way it is).

So if Romania recognized their marriage, they would still not have the right to both move to Romania under EU law. Some countries allow movement due to the Surinder Singh route, others don't (UK does, Germany doesn't, and I don't know about Romania).

If a EU citizen from any other country than Romania was in the situation, they would have a much better case.

  • 3
    This answer is incorrect. Under the Surinder Singh ruling, an EU citizen who has exercised the right of freedom of movement elsewhere qualifies for treatment under directive 2004/38/EC even when moving to the country of citizenship. If this couple were returning to Romania from outside the EU, for example from the US, then they would indeed have no case. If that were true, there would have been (as you note) no need to reach the question of the legitimacy of their marriage, and they would not have made it this far in the court system (i. e., 4 postponements from the constitutional court).
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:25
  • You may have misread Relaxed's comment ("freedom of movement rule does apply", not "does not apply").
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 13:29
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    It's not as bizarre as it might seem at first. That's not always as true as it used to be but the general principle is that the EU does not concern itself with how each government runs their own country, only with things that impact other member states in one way or another. A French person moving to Germany involves two member states, a French person moving to France only involves France and the way France deals with it should be of no concern to other member states. For the rest, as noted by @phoog, I do think freedom of movement could apply in this case.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 16:01
  • @Relaxed: Isn't the point of Surinder Singh that a French person has the right to move to Germany, and may not be punished for using that right? Hence France banning that person from returning is a violation.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jul 12, 2017 at 13:57
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    @MSalters yes, that may be the logic behind the ruling, but the practical effect manifests itself thus: EU countries may apply more restrictive rules to the family of their own citizens than they do to the family of other EU citizens unless the citizen in question is returning to the country after exercising freedom of movement rights elsewhere in the EU.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 16:35

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