This is how LGBTQ+ people are excluded from freedom of movement in the EU

One of the cornerstones of the EU is freedom of movement for its citizens. However, in reality, this is not the case for many LGBTQ+ people. Freedom of movement is based on the assumption that the EU citizen is heterosexual. If a ‘traditional family’ moves to another member state, the parents’ marriage certificate and the children’s birth certificates will be recognised. The parents will enjoy all the rights and duties of married couples. Their children will have two legal parents. The family will be able to focus on finding employment or self-employment, and a place to live. In many cases for LGBTQ+ people moving to certain member states, the couple ceases to be legally a couple, becoming instead two unrelated individuals, and their child or children go from having two legal parents to only one legal parent or (in a few cases involving surrogacy) no legal parents. The impacts of this on LGBTQ+ people can be stark. As in the case of Eleni Maravelia, President of the Network of European LGBTIQ* Families Associations (NELFA). She is Greek, her wife is British and they live together in Spain. When their first child was born seven years ago, the difficulties began. “We had a baby and she didn’t have any nationality, because in Spain you get the nationality from your parents, you don’t get Spanish nationality just for being born in Spain,” Eleni explains. Their daughter was also not eligible for British nationality. Eleni, as the biological mother, received fertility treatment outside the UK – and because she was not married at the time, the UK wouldn’t recognise her partner as the child’s parent. Suddenly, a parent’s worst nightmare happened. At just three months old, Eleni’s baby daughter was diagnosed with cancer. As she began treatment, it became clear that she may have to travel outside of Spain if she needed care that was not available through its medical system. Yet because of the laws surrounding rainbow families (families with LGBTQ+ parents) in the EU, they could not get her a passport. This complication added unnecessary stress at what was already an extremely challenging time for the family. It was a stress that no ‘traditional family’ would ever be faced with. “If I was a Greek man and my wife was British, from the moment the children were born they could have British nationality, Greek nationality and a year later Spanish nationality,” Eleni says. After much campaigning and wrangling, eventually the needs of the child were put first by the authorities. “We managed to get some sympathy from the Greek consulate in Barcelona,” Eleni says. “They actually transcribed the birth certificate with just me as a single mother so we were able to get a passport only because of the fact that she was very sick. “Now my daughter is still registered with a different identity really, as she has a different surname in Spain and a different surname in Greece.”