Bulgaria court recognises same-sex marriage in landmark case

After a two year battle, the marriage between Cristina Palma and Mariama Dialo has been recognised in court.

Cristina Palma and Mariama Dialo wearing rainbow coloured feather boa.

A court in Bulgaria has legally recognised the marriage between two women after a two-year court battle. As part of this landmark ruling, Cristina Palma, Australian-born, has been granted the right to live and work in the country with her wife, Mariama Dialo. 

In 2016, the couple married in France after 15 years together. They moved to Bulgaria, where their marriage was initially recognised on the grounds of marrying an EU citizen. However, Palma’s application to continue her residency was rejected in 2017. 

Due to same-sex marriage being illegal in Bulgaria, officials then deemed their union invalid. In June 2017, the couple won an initial lawsuit to reside in the country. This decision was later appealed. 

A court reinstated Palma’s rights on Wednesday, July 24. 

The decision was in line with the June 2018 European Court of Justice Ruling (ECJ). According to this, EU nations are required to recognise same-sex marriage even if the nation does not permit said marriages. 

Palma acknowledged her role in changing Bulgarian politics in a 2018 Twitter post, “We are part of making history in the #LGBT movement”. 

Following the decision, Associated Press reported, “Their lawyer Denitsa Lyubenova said the ruling could be an important first step towards legalising same-sex marriage in the country”. However, in order to change the Bulgarian constitution, which enshrines the banning of same-sex marriage, two-thirds of parliament would have to approve it. Bulgaria has previously been steadfast in their conservative views towards LGBT+ representation and inclusivity. 

In June 2018, the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the second main political party, refused an invite to Sofia Pride on the grounds that she opposed same-sex marriage. 

Sofia Pride had responded to Palma’s initial 2017 victory by saying, “The 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 recognised in Bulgaria!”

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