“Ukraine obliged to recognise same-sex relationships”


Eastern Europe


Same-sex marriage is also on President Zelensky’s agenda. Photo EPA, Paolo Aguilar

A European court ruled that Ukraine is violating human rights by not recognising same-sex relationships. According to various people, Ukraine is now obliged to change its legislation.

At the moment, Ukraine does not recognise same-sex marriage. Ukraine does not yet recognise same-sex marriage. And that, according to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), violates human rights. She said this in a court case between a Ukrainian gay couple and the Ukrainian state.

The gay couple, Andriy Maimulakhin and his friend Andriy Markiv got together in 2010. Four years later, they notified seven departments of the Register Office in Kyiv and the Kyiv region. However, the Ukrainian authorities rejected the requests because the Constitution and the Family Code of Ukraine explicitly defined marriage as a family union between a man and a woman. Since that was not the case, their request was denied.

However, ten years later, a European court rules in their favour. According to the ECHR, the lack of legislative regulation of same-sex relations in Ukraine violates Articles 8 and 14 of the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Since Ukraine signed this convention, it is obliged to comply with this.


The couple was awarded 5,000 euros each, but more importantly, the verdict creates a precedent. The head of the Centre for Strategic Affairs of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights, Mykhailo Tarakhkalo, said that this ruling “obliges Ukraine to change its legislation. The Union Mr Tarakhkalo works for is an NGO that is focused on protecting human rights.

Inna Sovsun, an MP for the liberal opposition party Holos (Voice/Vote), writes on her Facebook page that Ukraine is now obliged to pass a law that legally recognises same-sex couples and allows them to register as a family. “Failure to comply with the ruling constitutes a reputational risk for Ukraine and a signal to European countries that our state cannot protect human rights properly. Which could have a very negative impact on our EU integration.”

Same-sex marriage is also on President Zelensky’s agenda. In July of last year, a petition with over 28,000 signatures arrived at Zelensky’s desk. In response, Zelensky asked his government to look into the possibilities of legalising gay marriage in Ukraine. But because this needs a constitutional amendment, it will not happen for now; as long as Ukraine is in a state of war, it is constitutionally forbidden to change it. The war has spurred efforts to legalise same-sex marriage to ensure gay soldiers’ partners are given the same rights and privileges afforded to those in legally recognised marriages.


This is not the first time the ECHR has interfered in national legislation. Just a fortnight ago, the court ruled against Romania in a similar case. Earlier, the ECHR similarly ruled against Greece (2013) and Italy (2015). These countries then adapted their legislation.

According to MP Sovsun, Ukraine should do the same. “If we dream of the Hague Tribunal, we must respect the decisions of international courts.”



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