Same-sex marriage is coming to one of Europe’s smallest countries

Same-sex marriage is coming to one of Europe’s smallest countries

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The historical and ceremonial Andorran Parliament

The tiny mountain nation of Andorra is about to make same-sex marriage equal.

Three parties form the governing coalition in the tiny state of 77,000 people. They are the Democrats, the Liberal Party and Committed Citizens. And they have jointly presented a draft bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Civil partnerships have been legal for same-sex couples since 2014. But now they will erase the distinctions between ‘gay’ civil unions and ‘straight’ ‘casaments’ or weddings. Meanwhile ‘canonical marriage’ or ‘marriage under church law’ will remain unchanged.

The draft law states: 

‘From the entry into force of this law, the Andorran legal system will recognize two forms of marriages, civil marriage, to which both gay couples like heterosexual couples, and canonical marriage’.

They hope to make the change within two months. And with the coalition’s support it seems unlikely to be controversial in the General Council which runs the country. The 2014 civil unions bill passed on a vote of 20 to three, albeit with some abstaining.

Already the civil unions were legally equivalent to marriage. But the change will eradicate the ‘separate but equal’ policy.

Democratic Counselor, Ester Molné, said: ‘The term civil union was confusing, especially when it was necessary to register in foreign civil registries, which were not always recognized and therefore the affected couple could not be registered.’

Molné added that the LGBT+ community wants the change.

Andorra is ruled by two princes

Andorra is one of Europe’s least known nations. It is the world’s 16th smallest country by land mass with the 11th smallest population.

It is nestled in the Pyrenees, bordered by France to the north and Spain to the south. Andorra’s 468 square kilometres are however famous for their ski resorts and Romanesque architecture.

For LGBT+ people, it has a mixed position on legal rights. Gay sex has been legal since 1791. Moreover, same-sex couples can adopt and lesbian, gay and bisexual people have discrimination protections.

However there is still no legal right to change gender. And anti-discrimination and hate-crime laws do not cover gender identity.

But one of the most unusual things about Andorra is that it is a diarchy – a monarchy headed by two princes. Although the General Council makes democratic decisions, one of the princes must sign new laws, just as Queen Elizabeth signs UK laws. 

Stranger still, neither of the Princes even live there. One is the Catholic bishop of Urgell in Catalonia, Spain, and the other is the president of the French Republic.

That means that the President of France is also an elected monarch, even though it is the people of France who elect him as a prince and the people of Andorra don’t get a vote.

In practical terms then French President François Hollande gave his signature to the civil unions law in 2014, as one of the two co-princes. Most likely current President Emmanuel Macron will sign the new law in due course.

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Author: Tris Reid-Smith

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