Bulgaria recognizes marriage of same-sex couple in landmark case

Bulgaria recognizes marriage of same-sex couple in landmark case

Mariama Diallo (L) and Christina Palma (R). | Photo: Supplied

A top court in Bulgaria ruled the country must recognize a same-sex couple’s overseas marriage.

Last year, the Sofia City Administrative Court ruled in favor of Cristina Palma and Mariama Diallo, an Australian-French couple who married in France in 2016, but who live in Bulgaria.

Mariama Diallo (L) and Christina Palma (R) under a rainbow umbrella holding flowers

Mariama Diallo (L) and Christina Palma (R). | Photo: Supplied

Shortly after this historic court decision win, the Bulgarian Migration Department lodged an appeal to try to overturn the ruling.

But on Wednesday (24 July), the country’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled Bulgaria must continue to legally recognize the overseas marriage.

This is because Bulgaria is part of the European Union and EU rules state that any EU citizen is entitled to family mobility within the EU countries. That rule applies even if their spouse is not a citizen of the European Union.

We hope our case will ‘open the doors’ for justice and equality

The couple said the last year and a half have been ‘challenging’ but love prevailed in the end.

‘We cannot hold our tears of happiness any longer,’ the couple exclusively told Gay Star News. ‘Justice has prevailed and gay couples are welcome in Bulgaria!’

‘We love this country so much [and] it has given us more than we expected. People have been warm, supportive and received us like a family in so many ways,’ they said.

Supportive crowd at the court case

Supportive crowd at the court case. | Photo: Supplied

They then thanked everyone who supported them throughout their campaign.

The couple devoted their win ‘to all our friends and family, to all the young people who hugged us during Sofia Pride, to all those who are not here to celebrate because of homophobic violence, to all the children of our gay friends and especially to all our colleagues who have been day after day so supportive and open to our relationship.’

They then added: ‘Love moves, courage leads, and hope should always prevail for the changes that are in our hands!’

The fight for LGBTI rights in Bulgaria is not over

The couple said the historic win would not be possible without their lawyers Denitsa Luybenova and Veneta Limberova, from Bulgaria’s LGBTI rights group, Deystvie.

Luybenova told GSN: ‘This is a landmark decision from the Supreme Administrative Court in Bulgaria, which cannot be challenged any more. It entered into force.’

Attorney-at-law Denitsa Luybenova

Attorney-at-law Denitsa Luybenova. | Photo: Emil Metodiev / PhotoEmotions

‘Bulgaria has a long way to go still until full marriage equality but we are on the right path,’ Luybenova added. ‘Now we have to work with the Migration Department to avoid them manipulating other people and refusing them residency on the sole basis of their discriminatory politics.’

Luybenova also revealed Deystvie is working on two other landmark Supreme Court cases in Bulgaria.

One tackles marriage between two Bulgarians concluded abroad and the other tackles reproductive rights of lesbian couples.

A recent report revealed Bulgaria is sliding backwards for LGBTI rights. For example, Bulgaria removed legal procedures for changing name or gender marker for trans people.

Out of 49 European countries, it came in at number 37, with just 19.74% equality for LGBTI people.

See also

Europe is backsliding on LGBTI rights: which country is the worst?

How my family went from wanting to punch me to supporting me as a gay man

Lithuania’s top court grants residence permits for same-sex foreign spouses


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