The applicants were several same-sex couples living in Greece. The application was made after a new law was adopted establishing an official form of partnership other than marriage, known as “civil union”.
The applicants alleged that the fact that the civil unions were designed only for couples composed of different-sex adults infringed their right to respect for their private and family life and amounted to unjustified discrimination between different-sex and same-sex couples, to the detriment of the latter. They relied on Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 8.
The Court firstly emphasized that the family life of same-sex couples must be protected as much as family life of different-sex couples.
Turning to the analysis of potential discrimination, the Court reiterated that same-sex couples are just as capable as different-sex couples of entering into stable committed relationships. By allowing to form civil unions only to different-sex couples, the particular law introduced a difference in treatment based on the sexual orientation of the persons concerned. Extending civil unions to same-sex couples would allow the latter to regulate issues concerning property, maintenance and inheritance not as private individuals entering into contracts under the ordinary law but on the basis of the legal rules governing civil unions, thus having their relationship officially recognised by the State.
The Court agreed that the aims of the law - protection of the family in traditional sense and protection of interests of child - are of great importance. However, the Court was not convinced that the law is actually aimed at the protection of these aims or actually protected them. For example, even if the law was aimed towards the protection of the rights of child, it did not exclude the fact that same-sex and different-sex couples without children were treated differently. The Court added that the tendency of other European states to provide at least some form of legal partnership should also have been taken into account by Greece.
The Court considered that there were no convincing and weighty reasons capable of justifying the exclusion of same-sex couples from the scope of the law introducing civil unions. Accordingly, there has been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention taken in conjunction with Article 8 in the present case.