Defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is not discriminatory, EU Court says

By J.C. von Krempach, J.D. | November 28, 2016

EU Member States are not obliged to legislate for same-sex “marriages” or “civil partnerships”. This has been confirmed by a decision released last week by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the case of David L. Parris v Trinity College Dublin (C‑443/15).

The decision concerns a case of alleged “discrimination”. The pension scheme of Trinity College provides for the possibility of a survivor’s rent only in cases where an employee was married before his 60th birthday. However, Mr. Parris, a lecturer at Trinity College,  entered into a civil partnership with his long-time partner-in-sodomy only when he was aged 63. As a consequence, his partner was not eligible for a survivor’s pension. 

The CJEU dismissed Mr. Parris’s claim that he had been discriminated against on grounds of his “sexual orientation”, or his age, or both. In doing so, the Court also clarified (in §§ 58 – 59):

“… that marital status and the benefits flowing therefrom are matters which fall within the competence of the Member States and that EU law does not detract from that competence. (…)

The Member States are thus free to provide or not provide for marriage for persons of the same sex, or an alternative form of legal recognition of their relationship, and, if they do so provide, to lay down the date from which such a marriage or alternative form is to have effect.”