Administrative Court Sofia-city ordered to Sofia’s municipality, District Pancharevo to issue a birth certificate with both mothers of baby Sara listed as parents. The decision sets a precedent for authorities to recognize the rights of the children with same-sex parents and for the rights of LGBTI people to a family and private life and further encourages the equaity in the society.
Sara was born in 2019 in Spain to a family of two mothers, Kalina and Jane, and for more than two years the Bulgarian authorities have refused to issue a birth certificate. Today, the Administrative Court of Sofia City issued a Decision recognizing Sara's Bulgarian citizenship and obliging the Bulgarian administrative authorities to issue a birth certificate listing both of Sara’s mothers!
The battle began in 2019, when it turned out that Sara was at risk of becoming stateless, even though both of her mothers were listed on the Spanish birth certificate. Spain refused to grant her citizenship because her parents were not Spanish citizens. Although Jane was from the UK, she could not pass on her citizenship because Sarah was born outside of the UK. The only option left for Sara was to obtain Bulgarian citizenship passed on by Kalina who is Bulgarian.
Kalina, as the listed mother in Sara's Spanish birth certificate, applied to Sofia Municipality – Pancharevo District for a Bulgarian birth certificate for her child. The Sofia Municipality requested evidence containing information on the child's origin in relation to her biological mother. In her application, the applicant stated that she could not and was not obliged to provide such information under any law or regulation in force in the Republic of Bulgaria. As a result, the Sofia Municipality refused to issue a Bulgarian birth certificate.
The refusal was appealed before the Administrative Court of Sofia City (ACSC). The Court, in turn, referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of European law in relation to the right to freedom of movement and the right to private and family life of Sarah and her mothers. On 14 December 2021, the ECJ issued a Decision in favour of Sarah. The ECJ found that the Bulgarian authorities were obliged to issue Sara with an identity card or passport certifying her nationality and stating her surname according to the birth certificate drawn up by the Spanish authorities. This decision is significant for the development of European law and affects more than 100,000 families who find themselves in a similar legal paradox.
Following the ECJ's Decision, the case was referred back to the ACSC so that the Court could assess how to apply the decision in the context of Bulgarian law. Today, the ACSC issued a Decision confirming Sarah's Bulgarian citizenship and obliging the Bulgarian administration to issue a birth certificate listing both mothers as parents! This Decision is crucial for same-sex families and for full excercise of custody rights of both parents. The ruling is a huge step towards equal respect for everyone's family and personal rights.
After more than two years of battle, Sara's mothers share the excitement of success:
“We are so thrilled by this decision. We cannot believe that after waiting for such a long time we finally have a positive outcome for our family. It was very difficult time for us, not being able to see our families, but we are so happy that we will finally be able to. Even though many people were discouraging us that something like this will never happen in Bulgaria, we continued patiently and finally this wait has come to a positive end. We cannot express really how much it means to us that our family struggle will help other LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe as well. Thanks so much to “LGBT Deystvie” for the unconditional support during these years. We cannot express enough how grateful we are for the work you are doing for us and the whole LGBT community in Bulgaria and Europe.”
Comment by Att. Denitsa Lyubenova – procedural representative of the family and Director of the Legal Program of LGBTI Organisation Deystvie
"Today, the LGBTI community in Bulgaria should be happy. After years of tireless work, we have achieved a step forward in the fight for equality, after years of perseverance, we have proved that we are right and that EU law treats its citizens equally. Bulgaria must stop burying its head in the sand and stop legally maintaining that LGBTI people do not exist. On the contrary, Bulgaria is part of the EU and part of the democratic family, and as part of this community there are obligations that the country must comply with. Today's decision is extremely courageous, but also proves the exceptional legal thought of the Bulgarian court. Today, more than ever, I believe in the impartiality of the courts in Bulgaria, we have proven that we are right and that the Law and only the Law will bring change in our country."
Comment by Veneta Limberova – Chairperson of LGBTI Organisation Deystvie:
"Today, Bulgaria is taking a step forward, beyond the legislative and institutional discrimination against LGBTI people, their families and children, by obliging the administration to respect their right to non-discrimination and private and family life. The Decision is a landmark moment in the life of baby Sara, who will now be able to exercise her de facto right to citizenship. It is also a recognition and a ray of light for the lives of many other children and families who are still seeking recognition of their rights from the authorities, and an inspiration for the entire civil society in Bulgaria. "You have rights, look for us" is the motto of the Legal Program of LGBTI Organisation Deystvie and today's Decision of the ACSC is an expression of the fact that Bulgaria is a State governed by the rule of law that follows the path of equality and non-discrimination for all its citizens."