Recognition of same-sex unions in Bulgaria

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Legal status of same-sex unions

* Not yet in effect, but automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal

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Bulgaria does not recognize any type of same-sex unions. The subjects of same-sex marriage, same-sex registered partnerships, adopting children by same-sex couples have been discussed frequently over the past few years.

The Constitution of Bulgaria defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, effectively prohibiting the legalization of same-sex marriage.[1] Only civil marriages are recognised by law in Bulgaria.[2]

Registered partnerships[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe¹
  Civil union
  Limited domestic recognition (cohabitation)
  Limited foreign recognition (residency rights)
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
¹ May include recent laws or court decisions that have not yet entered into effect.

In 2008 and 2009, there were many debates on several national TV stations on the subject of registered partnerships with the participation of politicians, religious leaders, gay activists and others individuals. As of April 2009, there was a debate about introducing same-sex registered partnerships in Bulgaria. The Government had suggested that the National Assembly (Parliament) vote in favor of the new Family Code, which was supposed to include registered partnerships (Bulgarian: регистрирано партньорство).[2]

These unions would not have been open to same-sex couples. However, on July 16, 2008, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination in Bulgaria suggested that the right to registered partnerships should be extended to same-sex couples as well.[3] The Catholic Church subsequently announced their opposition to recognising registered partnerships, expressing fears that legally recognising registered partnerships for both different-sex and same-sex couples would "weaken" and "jeopardise" the institution of marriage. Some opponents further stated that the Family Code would legalise incest and polygamy despite the draft code explicitly prohibiting both.[2] Finally, on June 12, 2009, after two years of debating, the new Family Code was passed without the section about registered partnerships for both same- and opposite-sex couples.

In 2012, debates began again about whether the Family Code should recognise registered partnerships, and provide cohabiting couples with several rights available to married couples including the right to adopt, the contraction of joint credits and providing consent for medical treatment. Opponents claimed that legalising registered partnerships would "weaken" marriage, that it was against the morals of Bulgaria and that it would "confuse" children, while supporters claimed that it would protect families who choose not to marry, as well as children in such families. According to the National Statistics Institute, about 59% of all Bulgarian children born in 2012 were born to unmarried parents.

Same-sex marriage[edit]

The Bulgarian Constitution explicitly prohibits the recognition of same-sex marriage. Thus, the only way to legalise same-sex marriage in Bulgaria is to amend the Constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority in Parliament on three different occasions.[4]

In 2017, a Bulgarian same-sex couple, who married in the United Kingdom, filed a lawsuit in order to have their marriage recognised.[5] The Sofia Administrative Court rejected their case in January 2018.[6]

2018 European Court of Justice ruling[edit]

On June 5, 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that European Union member states (including Bulgaria) must recognise the freedom of movement and residency rights of same-sex spouses, provided one partner is an EU citizen.[7][8][9] The Court ruled that EU member states may choose whether or not to allow same-sex marriage, but they cannot obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen and their spouse. Furthermore, the Court ruled that the term "spouse" is gender-neutral, and that it does not necessarily imply a person of the opposite sex.[10][11]

Citing the ruling, a Sofia court granted a same-sex couple the right to live in Bulgaria on 29 June 2018. The couple, an Australian woman and her French spouse, had married in France in 2016, but were denied residency in Bulgaria a year later when they attempted to move there.[12] In January 2019, Bulgarian officials appealed the decision.[13] However, on 25 July 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria upheld the lower court ruling.[14][15] The couple's lawyer, Denitsa Lyubenova, said the move could be an improtant first step toward the legalization of same-sex marriage in Bulgaria.[16]

Public opinion[edit]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 17% of Bulgarians supported same-sex marriage. This was the lowest support among all of the EU's member states, and only a 2% change from the 2006 Eurobarometer, where 15% of Bulgarians expressed support for same-sex marriage.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bulgaria - Constitution
  3. ^ "Controversy as Bulgarian Parliament debates new Family Code".
  4. ^ III - Changes to Constitutional Law
  5. ^ Woman sues Bulgarian authorities for recognition of same-sex marriage The Sofia Globe, 5 December 2017
  6. ^ The Court did not Recognize a Marriage Between Bulgarian Women in the UK
  7. ^ EU states must recognize foreign same-sex marriages: court, Reuters, June 5, 2018
  8. ^ Rights for same-sex married couples to move around the EU confirmed in landmark ruling, Yahoo News, June 6, 2018
  9. ^ Alina Tryfonidou (June 7, 2018). "Rights for same-sex married couples to move around the EU confirmed in landmark ruling". The Conversation.
  10. ^ "Same-sex spouses have equal residency rights". BBC News. June 6, 2018.
  11. ^ JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Grand Chamber) 5 June 2018
  12. ^ Bulgarian Court Backs Same-sex Couple's EU Residence Rights, VOA News, 4 July 2018
  13. ^ "NEWSLETTER No. 11 - JANUARY 2019". Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations. 11 January 2019.
  14. ^ "Bulgaria Court Recognizes Gay Marriage in Landmark Case". VOA News. 25 July 2019.
  15. ^ Smith, Reiss (25 July 2019). "Bulgaria court recognises same-sex marriage in landmark ruling". PinkNews.
  16. ^ "Мариама Диало за еднополовите бракове: България трябва да промени конституцията си". (in Bulgarian). 29 July 2019.

External links[edit]