Entering a same-sex civil partnership

Civil partnerships, also referred as civil unions, are legal arrangements which provide rights and duties similar to those of marriage.

How similar a civil partnership is to marriage depends on the rules established in each country. Children may need the consent of a public authority and/or their parents in order to enter a civil partnership.

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Key aspects

  • In sixteen Member States, the minimum age at which persons may enter a civil partnership is 18 (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Slovenia). In seven of these countries, LGBTI persons may only enter a civil partnership, since they are not permitted to marry (Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, and Italy).
  • In Portugal, legal effects are linked to the existence of a de-facto union. A de-facto union requires that two persons have lived together for at least two years. From the age of 16, the cohabitation of two children has potential legal consequences. Rights and benefits, however, may only be granted to adults.
  • In two Member States (Malta and the United Kingdom, except Scotland), children can enter a civil-partnership at the age of 16, provided they have the consent of their parents or of a public authority. In Scotland, no parental consent is required for children aged 16.
  • In ten Member States, there are no civil partnerships for same-sex couples (Bulgaria, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Slovakia). In six of these (Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia), same-sex marriages cannot be performed.

Legal background

  • The right to not be discriminated based on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation applies equally for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children and is extensively covered in EU legislation. Protecting the rights of all children and combatting discrimination based on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation is an imperative for the EU when defining and implementing its policies and activities (Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) in conjunction with Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). Moreover, Article 21 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights explicitly prohibits any discrimination based on these grounds for EU institutions, as well as EU Member States when they are implementing Union law. At the same time, Article 24 of the EU Charter provides for the right of children to such protection and care, as it is necessary for their wellbeing.
  • In this context, the EU has been conferred the competence to take all relevant appropriate action. Nonetheless, EU secondary legislation related to discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is limited to the field of employment. At the same time, gender identity of transgender and intersex persons is not mentioned explicitly as a form of discrimination and no EU legislation exists concerning legal procedures for gender reassignment or legal recognition of the gender identity of transgender persons. However, according to established CJEU case law, gender reassignment and equal treatment of intersex and transgender persons is treated as an issue of non-discrimination on the ground of sex and hence gender equality directives are applicable.
  • FRA’s 2014 survey has shown that LGBTI persons are confronted with prejudices and negative attitudes in their everyday life. Stigma, discrimination and often harassment and violence are first experienced during childhood and adolescence. According to the survey, more than eight out of ten respondents claim to have witnessed negative conduct or comments because a schoolmate was perceived to be LGBTI, while two thirds (67 %) of respondents say they often or always hid or disguised the fact that they were LGBTI during their schooling before the age of 18. The situation is even worse for children whose bodies cannot easily be classified with the typical definitions of male and female. Consequently, LGBTI children’s wellbeing and fundamental rights are at constant risk. Fear, the feeling of victimisation and rejection do not only affect their childhoods, but also their future lives as adults and may result in social exclusion and poverty.