Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex marriage is not a basic universal human right. The decision was made in response to a case brought to the court by two Austrian men, Michael Schalk and Johan Kopf, who were denied the ability to marry and sued under the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the Guardian, the couple claimed that their rights were violated under the convention’s article 12, which guarantees the right to marry; article 14, which prohibits discrimination; and article 8, which guarantees the right to family and private life.
The court’s ruling found that “as matters stand, the question whether or not to allow same-sex marriage is left to regulation by the national law of the Contracting State,” according to the Guardian. Same-sex marriage is illegal in a majority of the 47 member states of the European Convention on Human Rights. Only 6 have legalized same-sex marriage and the BBC reports that several more have legalized partnerships, which allow same-sex couples similar privileges to a married couple. This year, the Austrian government passed a bill that allows for “Registered Partnerships.”
Despite the court’s statement, the case is still being viewed as a partial victory. For the first time, the court acknowledged that a same-sex couple has a right to “family life”, according to the Guardian. The ruling implied that the idea of marriage only for heterosexual couples is outdated. According to the Associated Press, the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association stated that despite the negatives of the ruling, the court displayed “a rapid evolution of social attitudes toward same sex couples.”
Others remain critical that the court’s ruling did not make any legally progressive moves. Kurt Krickler, spokesman for Austrian gay and lesbian advocacy organization, Homosexuelle Initiative, stated that the outcome “makes clear that the international human rights bodies are not ready to set the way for developments in society.”