Same-sex couple takes baby citizenship fight to top EU court

Lawyers for a couple from Bulgaria and Gibraltar say their battle might be a test case for thousands of same-sex parents, whose children are at risk of citizenship limbo because of legislative differences across the EU member states
Lawyers for a couple from Bulgaria and Gibraltar say their battle might be a test case for thousands of same-sex parents, whose children are at risk of citizenship limbo because of legislative differences across the EU member states LOIC VENANCE AFP/File
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Sofia (AFP)

A same-sex couple from Bulgaria and Gibraltar took their fight to obtain nationality for their stateless baby girl to the EU's top court on Tuesday.

Lawyers say their battle might be a test case for thousands of same-sex parents, whose children are at risk of citizenship limbo because of legislative differences across the EU member states.

Fourteen-month-old Sara was born in Spain and given a birth certificate that lists her two mothers as parents, but she could not be granted Spanish citizenship as neither woman is Spanish.

British law does not allow Sara's Gibraltarian mother to pass on her British citizenship if the baby is born in a third country.

And the Bulgarian authorities turned down a request for citizenship, insisting that the baby's birth certificate cannot include two people of the same sex and should only list her biological mother.

Sara's parents were married in 2018 in Gibraltar but Bulgaria does not allow same-sex marriage and does not recognise same-sex marriages conducted abroad.

"This puts the child at risk of remaining stateless or being deprived of one of its parents, if its biological mother is revealed," the Bulgarian mother's lawyer Denitsa Lyubenova told AFP after Tuesday's hearing at the European Court of Justice.

"There is no legal means in Bulgaria to defend the child's best interests," she added.

An EU court ruling is expected later this year, but whatever it decides, the legal battle to provide Sara with citizenship will be referred back to a court in Sofia.

"For now we are stuck in Spain with the baby and not allowed to leave, feeling hopeless to change anything," Sara's Bulgarian mother said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in November presented the EU's first LGBTIQ Equality Strategy, promising to push for recognition of the rights of same-sex parents across the bloc.

"If you are parent in one country, you are parent in every country," she said.