A lesbian couple has launched a legal challenge for the right to marry in Serbia. Jelena Dubovi and Suncica Kopunovic, who have been together for four years, attempted to register for a civil partnership at the municipal registrar office’s in the northern city of Novi Sad, but were denied and told that only men and women can marry.
This is the first legal challenge for same-sex marriage in Serbia, although the country did legalize gay sex in 1994 and now has civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and employment. Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabic, is the first openly lesbian leader of an eastern European country. Despite this, homophobia is still widespread, and civil partnerships for same-sex couples are not recognized. The country only recently began holding pride celebrations after they were unbanned in 2010, and Novi Sad held its first-ever Pride celebration this year. Serbia is currently considering draft legislation that would increase property rights for same-sex couples but would still bar them from adoption, inheritance, and surrogacy arrangements.
“As not many same-sex couples in Serbia are willing to step out, we decided to stand for all of us and try to fight and aim to win,” Dubovi, 27, told Reuters. “We are not afraid… we got sick of hiding who we are, because that is actually nothing bad. We just love each other, which is absolutely a normal thing.”
Lawyers believe that the case will be long and drawn out, and that the couple is unlikely to win at first. The goal is to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which recognized same-sex marriage rights in an Italian case in 2015.
“We are absolutely not asking for anything much, we are just asking to be equal human beings just as heterosexual couples are,” Dubovi told Reuters. “It would mean a normal and a proper life.”