Gay and lesbian couples in the European Union will have an easier time moving around--but only in E.U. countries that also legally recognize same-sex couples--under a directive adopted Wednesday by the European Parliament.
The directive on free movement of E.U. citizens and their family members passed by a show of hands during the parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg, France. It is intended to create a single set of rules and simpler procedures for E.U. citizens and their families who move from one E.U. country to another. It also requires E.U. governments to "facilitate" the entry and recognition of legally registered same-sex couples--but only if the host country also recognizes the relationship.
Previously approved amendments to broaden the scope or add more precise language were removed in the face of resistance from E.U. governments, which must sign off on the directive as well. Monica Frassoni, co-leader of the Greens in Parliament, called the final version a "step back" but necessary to ensure it becomes law before parliamentary elections in June. "We still have a long way to go to ensure that everyone's right to move freely within the E.U. is respected," said British Green Jean Lambert. "More must be done to include long-term partners" who don't fit the "registered partners" definition.
Philip Tod, spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in Parliament, said the directive was "deliberately vague" on same-sex couples and would likely be left to judges to clarify. "It's progress, but it's also a court case waiting to happen," he said. Belgium and the Netherlands are the only E.U. nations that give full marriage rights to same-sex couples. France, Germany, and Nordic countries like Denmark
have civil union laws, and the United Kingdom is in the process of adopting them.