EU Courts Rule Against Bulgaria in Controversial Stateless Infant Case


The European Court of Justice has ruled against Bulgaria in the controversial case of an infant born in Spain to lesbian parents of Bulgarian descent. Bulgaria’s government denied the baby’s mothers a birth certificate in 2019, despite one of them being from the country. The infant’s other parent is from the British territory of Gibraltar.

Bulgaria only recognizes marriage as a legal arrangement between a man and a woman. As such, the two women found themselves in a bizarre scenario with their daughter becoming stateless after her birth. The parents sued Bulgaria, and the case made its way to the highest court in Europe, the European Court of Justice.

Bulgaria Demands Amended Birth Certificate 

Bulgaria refused to issue a birth certificate for the infant that listed anyone other than her biological mother. The country refused to include the child’s other mother in the legal documents. The family sued Bulgaria over this disagreement, refusing to disclose the identity of Sara’s birth mother.

The circumstances of Sara’s birth stranded her in a legal gray area. Spain doesn’t extend citizenship to people born within its borders. The United Kingdom doesn’t allow citizenship to pass from parent to child unless the child is born on British soil. As such, Bulgaria’s decision to deny the infant citizenship left her stateless. This meant she was unable to leave Spain, as she had no identification documents that would allow her to travel in the EU.

Court Sides With “Rainbow” Families

The European Court of Justice reached its verdict on Tuesday, finding that Bulgaria had no right to deny the infant citizenship. The high court argued that the member nation must issue identification documents to children born to its citizens.

The 13-judge panel wrote that the infant has “the right to be registered immediately after birth, the right to a name and the right to acquire a nationality, without discrimination against the child in that regard, including discrimination on the basis of the sexual orientation of the child’s parents.”

Victory for Minority Rights

The EU’s highest court typically sides with LGBT families in cases involving member nations. In 2018, the court ruled that the word “spouse” must apply to both same-sex and opposite-sex partners in legal documents.

Humanitarian groups in the EU applauded the decision Tuesday. The court’s ruling in the case comes as several EU member nations push back against LGBT rights. The case will set a new precedent for the EU, securing the rights of LGBT families to access identification documents.