European Court Upholds Russian Transgender Woman’s Right to Family Life

In a victory for a transgender parent’s right to maintain contact with her children, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on July 6 that Russia’s denial of her visitation violated her rights to family life and freedom from discrimination. The woman, known in court documents as A.M., had two children with her spouse before they separated. After a local court legally recognized her gender transition, A.M. continued to regularly see her children for 17 months until her former spouse obtained a court ruling to cut off visitation. The former spouse argued that any further contact with the children would harm their mental health, distort their morals and perception of family, lead to bullying at school, and violate Russia’s “gay propaganda” law. This contorted reasoning is familiar in Russia, where anti-LGBT animus is regularly justified on child protection grounds. There is no basis for such claims but instead ample evidence that “gay propaganda” laws harm children. The European Court found that the decision to restrict A.M.’s contact with her children was made “in the absence of any demonstratable harm to the children” and was not based on a “balanced and reasonable assessment.”