Same-sex marriage as a human right: How the Strasbourg Court could draw inspiration from the US Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to affirm marriage equality

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1347

Keywords:

Private and family life, human rights, same-sex marriage, European Court of Human Rights, Supreme Court of the United States, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Vida privada y familiar, derechos humanos, matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo, Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos, Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Tribunal Supremo de los Estados Unidos

Abstract

In the last fifteen years, the European Court, the US Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have all ruled on the issue of same-sex marriage. The Strasbourg Court has not, at this stage, dared to affirm the right to marriage, unlike its (inter)American counterparts. The article proposes a comparative analysis of the decisions rendered by the three jurisdictions: it highlights, beyond the (obvious and indisputable) differences between the three legal orders, the similar issues – of applicability, proportionality and subsidiarity – with which the judges responsible for ensuring respect for human rights are confronted. As the analysis also reveals, these issues are sometimes hotly debated within the courts themselves, while their understanding can be enriched by inter-jurisdictional dialogue. In conclusion, it is argued that, with regard to the recognition and protection of same-sex couples, the European Court should draw inspiration from American experiences and (1) clearly (re)affirm that the right to marry (art. 12 ECHR) applies to same-sex couples (2) mobilise the full potential of the prohibition of discrimination (art. 14 ECHR) and (3) move away from strict adherence to the European consensus rule.

En los últimos quince años, el Tribunal Europeo, el Tribunal Supremo de Estados Unidos y la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos se han pronunciado sobre la cuestión del matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo. El Tribunal de Estrasburgo no se ha atrevido, por el momento, a afirmar el derecho al matrimonio, a diferencia de sus homólogos (inter)americanos. El artículo propone un análisis comparativo de las decisiones dictadas por las tres jurisdicciones: pone de relieve, más allá de las diferencias (evidentes e indiscutibles) entre los tres ordenamientos jurídicos, las cuestiones similares –de aplicabilidad, proporcionalidad y subsidiariedad– a las que se enfrentan los jueces encargados de velar por el respeto de los derechos humanos. Como también revela el análisis, estas cuestiones son a veces objeto de acalorados debates en el seno de los propios tribunales, mientras que su comprensión puede verse enriquecida por el diálogo interjurisdiccional. En conclusión, se sostiene que, en lo que respecta al reconocimiento y la protección de las parejas del mismo sexo, el Tribunal Europeo debería inspirarse en las experiencias estadounidenses y (1) (re)afirmar claramente que el derecho a contraer matrimonio (art. 12 del CEDH) se aplica a las parejas del mismo sexo (2) movilizar todo el potencial de la prohibición de la discriminación (art. 14 del CEDH) y (3) alejarse de la estricta adhesión a la norma del consenso europeo.

Available from: https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1347

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Author Biography

Geoffrey Willems, Catholic University of Louvain

Geoffrey Willems is Professor of Family Law at UCLouvain. Since his PhD thesis defended in 2014, he has specialized in international and comparative family law. He has been a visiting scholar in the UK and the US and is particularly interested in how human rights judges influence family law. He has led major collaborative research projects, including an international project on adult-child relationships (Adults and Children in postmodern Societies, Intersentia, 2019) and - most recently - a project on the leading cases on the right to respect for family life (Les grands arrêts du droit au respect de la vie familiale, Larcier, 2022). Since 2020, he is Vice-Dean of the UCLouvain law faculty.  

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Published

01-02-2024

How to Cite

Willems, G. (2024) “Same-sex marriage as a human right: How the Strasbourg Court could draw inspiration from the US Supreme Court and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to affirm marriage equality”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 14(1), pp. 176–212. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1347.