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Same-sex couples in Europe: more rights in more countries

The trend of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples is broadening. More and more rights are becoming available to same-sex partners – in more and more European countries. Leiden Law School and the French Institute for Demographic Studies publish detailed database and comparative analysis.

Growing consensus

Across the European Union, almost all countries now agree that same-sex partners should be legally protected – at the very least when one of them dies, or in case of illness, accident or violence. A similar large majority of countries agree that same-sex partners should be allowed to live in the same country. These are the main findings of the research led by Kees Waaldijk, Leiden University’s professor of comparative sexual orientation law. Parenting rights remain more controversial. But already a majority of EU countries allow children to be adopted by the same-sex partner of their mother or father.

Progress across Europe

Same-sex marriages or registered partnerships are now legal in 21 of the 28 member states of the EU (up from only 10 in 2005). This is now also true for a majority of the 47 countries in the Council of Europe. Greece and Italy have recently started to allow same-sex couples to register as partners, while Ireland and Finland now allow them to marry. Meanwhile, Portugal and Austria have started to allow adoptions by same-sex partners. In Germany and Slovenia (and to a lesser degree in the Czech Republic) the legal consequences of same-sex registered partnership have become more similar to those of different-sex marriage. And also in Poland and Bulgaria, same-sex couples are beginning to get some legal recognition.

LawsAndFamilies Database

All this and much more (such as the slowly growing recognition of different-sex cohabitation) has now been documented in the LawsAndFamilies Database. This new interactive database covers 60 legal aspects of marriage, partnership and cohabitation over the last 50 years for same-sex and different-sex couples in more than 20 countries. It has been created by a team of legal experts, led by Kees Waaldijk at Leiden Law School, together with a team of demographers and sociologists led by Marie Digoix at INED in Paris. A comparative analysis of this enormous collection of data is being published today under the title: More and more together – Legal family formats for same-sex and different-sex couples in European countries.


The French Institute for Demographic Studies INED was responsible for the technical aspects of this EU-funded project. INED researchers have also coordinated the collection and analysis of qualitative interviews with same-sex families in four countries, and of statistics on same-sex marriages and registered partnerships in twelve countries. These data and analyses are now also available in the LawsAndFamilies Database – in open access.

European courts

Professor Kees Waaldijk concludes: ‘This growing European consensus can help the European Court of Human Rights in deciding which legal protections should – at the very least – be made available to same-sex couples in all 47 Council of Europe countries. And the Court of Justice of the European Union could build on this clear trend, by ruling that all 28 EU countries must now recognize same-sex marriages from other member states – at least in the context of free movement and immigration.’  

Launch on 25 April

The LawsAndFamilies Database will be officially launched on Tuesday 25 April in The Hague. There the More and More Together report will be presented to Professor Pearl Dykstra (Erasmus University Rotterdam) who is deputy chair of the High Level Group of Scientific Advisors of the European Commission.  The event will be held in Leiden University’s new building at Turfmarkt  99 in The Hague. Welcome from 16:30 hrs. Presentation starts at 17:15 hrs. Please register here for this event.

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