A court in Bulgaria has recognized the rights of lesbian couple Kristina Palma and Mariama Dialo to marry in a landmark case. Palma is a citizen of Australia and Dialo is a citizen of France. The couple married in 2016, and Palma was permitted to live and work in Bulgaria at that time, as she was married to a citizen of the EU. This arrangement came to an end, however, when Bulgaria said that she was not permitted to live or work in the country because same-sex marriage is not legal in the conservative country. Bulgaria is one of 20 EU countries where same-sex marriage is illegal.
This denial led to a two-year-long court battle for Palm and Dialo’s right to live together in Bulgaria. The couple initially won a victory earlier this year in front of an administrative court, but the Bulgarian government appealed the decision. Now, a higher court has reaffirmed the rights of the couple to live together in Bulgaria, with Palma recognized as the spouse of an EU citizen.
The ruling was in accordance with a European Court of Justice ruling thar found EU nations must recognize same-sex marriages from other EU states, even if they do not grant marriage equality to their own citizens. The country’s constitution explicitly bans same-sex marriages and partnerships, and it would take two-thirds of parliament need to approve any change to the law. Same-sex couples are also prohibited from adopting children in the country.
The Sofia Pride festival expressed their support for the couple when the first administrative ruling came down, saying, “In a historic decision published on 29 June 2018, the Sofia City Administrative Court ruled in favour of a same-sex couple – Cristina and Mariama – who fought for their right to reside as a married couple in Bulgaria! This ruling is of paramount importance for us as a community because it gives hope to all same-sex couples, regardless of their citizenship, that their families will be recognized in Bulgaria!”
Now, the latest decision could help push equal rights in Bulgaria. The couple’s lawyer Denitsa Lyubenova said the ruling could be an important first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage in the country.