The highest human rights court in Europe has told European LGBTs that they have no human right to same-sex marriage, in a case that also shows how complicated sexual and marital norms have become in this new transsexual world. The case arose after a man in Finland, who was married with a child, decided he wanted to live as a woman. After a sex-change operation, he attempted to change his governmental “male identity number” to a female one. He was turned down because, according to law, he needed his wife’s consent to change their man-woman marriage to a “registered partnership”, which she had withheld.
The problem in short is that this married man and woman could no longer be considered married in Finland if he changed his sex to female because Finland does not allow same-sex marriage. The couple would be required to accept a “registered partnership”, something they objected to. The couple sued and told the court that “a divorce would be against their religious convictions” and that a “registered partnership did not provide the same security as marriage” and that “their child would be placed in a different situation from children born within wedlock.”
Some of the claims made by the plaintiffs made to the Court of Justice of the European Communities show how complicated these matters can become. Among other things the transsexual said the court’s decision — that a “registered partnership” was appropriate for their relationship — required that his wife had to become a lesbian and that a registered partnership would mean he could no longer be a “legal father to his child and could not be her mother either, as a child could not have two mothers.”
Lower courts repeated told the couple that a registered partnership was on par with marriage and rejected their claims, which they took to the European Court of Human Rights, which oversees the European Convention of Human Rights signed by 47 member states of the Council of Europe, which is distinct from the European Union.
The high court said there two competing rights that needed to be balanced; the “applicants right to respect for her private life by obtaining a new female identity number and the State’s interest in maintaining the traditional institution of intact.”
The court reiterated that nothing in the Convention on Human Rights imposed an obligation on States to allow same-sex marriage. The court said his alternatives were either a registered partnership, something that requires his wife’s approval, or divorce. The court further said “it cannot be said that there exists in any European consensus on allowing same-sex marriage” and that same-sex marriage is allowed in only ten of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
The decision flies in the face of ongoing LGBT claims that same-sex marriage is about to sweep in the world. In fact, same-sex marriage is recognized in only 18 countries out of more than 200 listed in the CIA World Fact Book or the 192 member states of the UN. Just last month the Italian Constitutional Court rejected same-sex marriage and said civil unions were sufficient to protect same-sex couples. The Finnish man and his wife remain defiant. On his website he said, “I will stay married after this judgment. There is nothing on earth that will get us separated. We won’t terminate our marriage. We do not call it cis or trans or whatever. It is a religious marriage as I have proven to the court.”