The registration of same-sex marriage has recently become more and more significant and meaningful to a particular part of our modern society. Law Office INLAT PLUS has come across with clients of different gender, race, ethnicity and political affiliation, as well as with clients of different sexual orientation, who are interested to enter into same-sex marriages in our country. In Latvia, such marriages are not registered, but different property relations may be settled.
The first same-sex marriages were introduced in 2001 in the Netherlands. Currently, these marriages are registered and recognized in 20 other countries such as: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil, France, Uruguay, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland), Luxembourg, the USA, Ireland, Finland. It is also worth noting that there are countries in which the status of same-sex marriage registration is considered to be controversial.
Same-sex marriages involve access of same-sex couples to the same legal institution of marriage that opposite-sex couples have. At the same time, there are cases where on same-sex marriages are also imposed some conditions that restrict the rights of same-sex spouses as compared to opposite-sex ones. The fact of the marriage registration establishes the couple certain rights, such as: the right to joint property, the right to alimony, the right to inheritance, social and health insurance, tax rebates and credits, the right to a common surname, the right not to testify in court against a spouse, the right to speak as a trustee on behalf of the spouse in the event of his or her incapacity due to health, the right to dispose of the body of a spouse in the event of his or her death, the right to co-education of foster children, as well as other rights, which unregistered couples are denied of.
Of the existing practice, the persons, who have failed to solve the issue of registration of same-sex marriage on the territory of Latvia, do it in the nearest country from Latvia – Sweden. In Sweden at the state and national level, same-sex couples can officially register their relationship from May 1, 2009. Moreover, there is absolutely no difference in the procedure for registration of marriage for opposite-sex and same-sex couples – it is a common standard procedure of marriage registration in each case.
Marrying in Sweden requires no residence in Sweden, but arranging and getting approval for same-sex marriage in Sweden may take some time. The EU citizens should contact the Swedish Tax Agency to apply for a permission to register a same-sex marriage in the area where the wedding is taking place. It is essential to contact the tax agency in advance, as it is necessary to visit in person. After a week, the couple will get a phone call, and a meeting will be arranged, at which no special or tricky questions will not be asked.
The following original documents are required to be submitted from the couple: passport, certificate of divorce or a document confirming that the person is not married, in accordance with their national legislation. After 3 or 4 months, the couple receives permission for the registration of same-sex marriage. This marriage license is valid for 4 months from the date of issue. It should be noted that in Sweden the procedure for obtaining permission to marry is free. Before obtaining permission, the couple sign a document stating that both are single, over 18 and are in sound mind and memory, then two permissions for marriage are issued – in the city hall and the church. The church and civil marriage are equal.
After the decision is made, the couple need to contact a representative of the civil authority (the Stockholm District Court or the City Hall – Reservations should be made at least two weeks before the ceremony) or church (vicar). If the wedding will be held in the church of Sweden, one of the parties must be a member of this denomination or of a closely related denomination abroad. Then after 1 or 2 weeks, it would be possible to register the same-sex marriage. After the wedding ceremony, a ceremony document must be submitted to the Swedish Tax Agency so that the couple could get a legalized registration of same-sex marriage. This means that the couple should return to the tax agency which originally issued the marriage license with proof that the marriage was performed.
An example of Sweden shows that many European countries are quite loyal and liberal towards same-sex marriage. Therefore, if in a country whose citizens are our customers, it is impossible to enter into same-sex marriage, in the presence of the necessary documentation to legalize the marriage it can be performed in one of the above-mentioned 20 countries.