B and L v. the United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
13 September 2005


The first applicant, Mr B., wanted to marry the second applicant, Ms L. Ms L was previously married with the first applicant's son from whom she had a child. The State authorities did not allow the marriage.


The applicants, who were father-in-law and daughter-in-law, complained that they are not allowed to marry in violation of Article 12 of the Convention.

Court's ruling

The Court firstly stated that the right to marry is subject to the national laws of the States but the limitations must not restrict or reduce the right in such a way or to such an extent that the very essence of the right is impaired.

The Court found that the bar on marriage was aimed at protecting the integrity of the family (preventing sexual rivalry between parents and children) and preventing harm to children who may be affected by the changing relationships of the adults around them. Nonetheless, there was no law prohibiting parents-in-law and children-in-law living together, also as in the present case. Such relationships do occur in reality and it cannot be said that the marriage ban prevents any confusion for the child. Therefore, the Court found a violation of the applicants’ right to marry protected by the Article 12 of the Convention.

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Last updated 08/11/2023