‘I can barely hold my tears back. Justice has prevailed! Same-sex couples are now welcome in Bulgaria. We love this country so much; it has given us more than we had ever expected! People here were kind and supportive, they treated us like family. Without the support of Deystvie and our attorneys Denitsa Lyubenova and Veneta Limberova, none of this could have been possible. We went through a lot of difficulties this past year and a half because of the uncertainty of our future in Bulgaria. What kept us motivated to keep fighting was the dream that our case will open many doors, not just for justice and equality, but also for the freedom for same-sex couples to be able to live together in a safe family environment within the borders of the European Union. Nothing will change if we do not protect our own place in this world. Nothing will change if we keep believing that there is no hope for same-sex couples in Bulgaria. To all our friends and family, to all young people who hugged us at Sofia Pride, to everyone who, because of homophobia, was not here to celebrate, to all the children of our gay friends and especially to our colleagues, who were supportive and open to our relationship, day after day: Love wins, courage leads the way and hope overcomes, because change is in our hands.’
- Cristina Palma and Mariama Diallo -
Today, on the 24th of July 2019, the Supreme Administrative Court of the Republic of Bulgaria recognized the right of a same-sex couple to live and reside on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, exercising the right to free movement in the European Union, valid for all citizens of the Union and their family members. SAC delivered a judgment which upheld the judgment of the Sofia City Administrative Court regarding Cristina Palma and her wife Mariama Diallo.
Cristina and Mariama, a homosexual couple from Australia and France, got married on the 1st of June 2016 in France. Later that same year, Cristina, an Australian citizen, was permitted residence in Bulgaria via Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to free movement and residence in the European Union. Based on the Directive, every EU citizen shall enjoy free movement within the EU together with their family, even if their spouse is not an EU citizen, which is the case with Cristina. Despite the explicitness of the ruling and a previous judgment in this case, in the beginning of 2018, the Migration Directorate of the MoI refused to give Cristina Palma a residence permit, basing the decision on Article 46(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria and the Family Code – ‘Matrimony shall be a free union between a man and a woman’.
The Supreme Administrative Court’s judgment upholding the Sofia City Administrative Court judgment is also in line with the case-law of Court of Justice of the European Union in a similar case in Romania (Coman, C-673/2016) in which CJEU ruled that Member States must recognize the right to residence of same-sex couples who have been legally married in another State and want to live together on their territory, because the right to free movement is a fundamental one, guaranteed to all citizens of the Union, one that is frequently exercised by a large number of Bulgarian citizens and their families. SAC’s judgment is final and effective and it must be implemented by the Migration Directorate of the MoI immediately.
‘We are not surprised by the judgment, because it is the only possible one in this case. We hope that Bulgarian institutions will take note of the fact that this judgment will be influential to other similar situations in which citizens of the EU, including Bulgarian citizens, exercise their right to free movement within the borders of the Union, so they do not waste taxpayer money, which they did during this case’
- Veneta Limberova -
Chairperson of Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie
‘Today, SAC applied flawlessly European law and followed the Court of Justice of the European Union’s case-law by recognizing a homosexual marriage concluded abroad. This is a big step forward for equality for homosexual couples in Bulgaria. We have a long way to go but Deystvie and the attorneys we work with are laying the foundations for a new era in the fight for equality for LGBTI people in Bulgaria’
- Att. Denitsa Lyubenova - Deystvie Legal Program
Cristina uses the services of Youth LGBT Organization Deystvie’s Legal Program and Att. Denitsa Lyubenova