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Poland Must Legally Recognize Same-Sex Couples, European Human Rights Court Rules

LGBTQ+ march in Gniezno, Poland 2019
Sentemon / Shutterstock

Poland, Gniezno - 13 April 2019. LGBTQ+ march in the first capital of Poland.

With support from the country's new Prime Minister and Europe's highest human rights court, same-sex couples may finally be granted legal recognition in Poland.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland is violating the rights of same-sex couples by refusing to offer legal recognition.

“The Court considered that the Polish State had failed to comply with its duty to ensure that the applicants had a specific legal framework providing for the recognition and protection of their same-sex unions,” the court said in a statement Tuesday. “That failure had resulted in the applicants’ inability to regulate fundamental aspects of their lives and amounted to a breach of their right to respect for their private and family life.”

The case was originally brought to the court by ten LGBTQ+ Polish citizens under the country's conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), which had been in power since 2014. New Prime Minister Donald Tusk, of the centrist Civic Coalition party, was sworn in Wednesday following his victory in Poland's recent parliamentary elections.

Tusk was also backed by the country's social-democratic party, the New Left, and campaigned on the promise of introducing legal recognition for same-sex partnerships, which he said he considered a priority. Tusk has since created the position of minister for equality in his cabinet, and appointed New Left politician Katarzyna Kotula.

The European Court of Human Rights has jurisdiction over the 46 countries on the Council of Europe. It cannot force Poland to change its laws, but it can place pressure on the nation by awarding monetary damages to the plaintiffs; in this case, the ten LGBTQ+ Polish filers.

Recognition will grant LGBTQ+ Poles greater social rights, in areas such as taxation and family law. While Tusk said he sought legal recognition for same-sex couples, the court ruling provides an incentive for his administration to quickly change policy.

Officials have signaled that they intend to do just that, with equality minister Kotula celebrating the ruling in a post on X.

“It’s a good day. The time of discrimination is coming to an end," she wrote. "We know that we are all different, but we are equal. We will ensure equality for all."

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.