The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has ruled that spouses of the same sex are covered under the EU law providing for freedom of residence to EU citizens and their family. In a press release dated June 5, 2018, the ECJ explains “[a]lthough the Member States have the freedom whether or not to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex, they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU Member State, a derived right of residence in their territory.”

The ECJ’s judgment arises from a case brought by a Romanian national who was unsuccessful in securing residency rights in Romania (which does not legally recognize same-sex marriage) for his same-sex spouse, a US citizen whom he had married in Brussels. The residency request was based on an EU directive guaranteeing the freedom of movement and residence to EU citizens and their family; this EU directive allows the non-EU “spouse” of an EU citizen to join his or her EU spouse in the member state in which the EU spouse is living. The couple brought an action before the Romanian courts, which then asked the ECJ to decide whether a same-sex spouse may be regarded as the “spouse” of an EU citizen under the freedom of movement directive. In its June 5 press release, the ECJ states that “in the directive on the exercise of freedom of movement the term ‘spouse,’ which refers to a person joined to another person by the bonds of marriage, is gender-neutral and may therefore cover the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen.”