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European court rules lesbian can't take paternity leave

Rebecca Staudenmaier with dpa
January 18, 2018

The European Court of Human Rights has dismissed a case brought by a French woman in a same-sex partnership who was denied paternity leave. The court said the leave was only intended for biological fathers.

Two women hold a baby
Image: imago/Westend61

Judges on the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Thursday that a lesbian was not discriminated against when her application for paternity leave was denied.

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The case was brought by two French women in a civil partnership who argued that the rejection violated Article 14 and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

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One of the women applied for 11 days of paid paternity leave in 2004 after her partner gave birth to their son. The application was denied at the time because terms of paternity leave referred to the "father" of the child, not the "partner" of the child.

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The court upheld this interpretation, saying the women's case was "manifestly ill-founded."

In its statement, the court said the institution of paternity leave was "designed to allow fathers to play a greater role in their children's upbringing" and to more equally distribute household tasks between men and women.

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"Furthermore, the difference in treatment had not been based on sex or sexual orientation since, in a different-sex couple, the mother's partner would not be eligible for paternity leave either if he was not the child's father," judges said in their decision.

The court also noted that in the meantime, French laws have changed. An amendment to the law in 2012 allowed for the French woman to take so-called "carer's leave," which has the same conditions as paternity leave but is not tied only to the child's biological father.

Same-sex marriage in force