Frequently Asked Questions

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Frequently Asked Questions: LGBTI Rights in Bulgaria

1In which European countries are same-sex partnerships regulated by law?
Same-sex marriages can be contracted in Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Iceland, Great Britain, Germany and Malta. Formal forms of same-sex partnerships can be registered in Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Switzerland, Estonia, Greece and Cyprus. (ILGA-Europe)
2In Bulgaria, are same-sex partnerships regulated by law?
No. The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria provides that "Marriage is a voluntary union between a man and a woman. Only civil marriage is legitimate." The religious ritual has no legal effect. The Family Code provides that "every person has the right to marry", but "only civil marriage, concluded in the form prescribed by this code, raises the consequences that the laws associate with marriage." Bulgarian law does not regulate relations based on factual cohabitation.
3What legal issues arise when partner relations are not regulated by law?

• Health service issues and access to partner health information;

• Refusals to visit a hospital; inability to make life-saving decisions;

• Inability of partners to adopt a common child;

• Inability of the partner to ask the other partner for support for themselves or the child they are raising;

• Lack of reserved part of the deceased's estate;

• Inability of the surviving partner to receive a widow's pension;

• Issues related to the freedom of movement and the right to family reunification if one of the partners is a third-country national;

• Inability to use tax relief for young families in the case of a mortgage loan to buy a home.

4In Bulgaria, do same-sex partners have the right to adopt a child together, to whom neither is a parent?
No. The Family Code explicitly forbids this: "No one can be adopted by two persons unless they are spouses." Adoptive parents of a child may be male and female spouses or single parents, but not two parents of the same sex.
5Can one partner adopt the biological child of the other partner?
The Family Code provides for "Adoption by a parent's spouse", i.e. one person can only adopt the biological child of their partner if they have a marriage. In a same-sex relationship, only one partner may be the legal representative of the child / children and exercise parental rights. Parental rights and obligations cannot belong to both the adopter and the biological parent. In this case, parental rights and obligations pass on the adoptive parent. Such is the convention of the Sofia Court of Appeal (Decision No. 1031 of 18.05.2016 of the SCA on case number 544/2016).
6In Bulgaria, can same-sex partners become parents through the surrogacy method?
No. The surrogacy method is generally banned in Bulgaria. According to Ordinance No. 28 of June 20, 2007 for Assisted Reproduction Activities, "in the course of assisted reproduction, it is not allowed ... to achieve surrogate pregnancies".
7In Bulgaria, can a person inherit a same-sex partner?
Yes, by will. The will, however, must not diminish the reserved parts of the inheritance of the heirs by law, as they may challenge it. Legally entitled heirs may be only persons who are related to the deceased, and according to Art. 80, para 2 of the Social Insurance Code, "the children, the surviving spouse and the parents have the right to inheritable pension".
8What alternatives exist to achieve the legal consequences of marriage?

• explicit authorization to be represented in hospitals, schools, institutions, etc.


• buying real estate together as co-owners;

• drawing up a will;

• appointment of the surviving partner as the guardian of the child that the partners are raising, in the event of the death of the child's legal representative.

9Does the Law on Protection against Domestic Violence apply to same-sex couples?
No. This law protects persons who are or have been in "actual marital coexistence", and spouses can only be male and female. Such is the practice of the Sofia District Court.
10What is the minimum age in Bulgaria for practicing sex?
14 years. This age is the same for both sexes. The Penal Code provides that "Who copulates with a person under the age of 14, insofar as the act does not constitute [rape], shall be punished by imprisonment of two to six years" (Article 151) and specifies that "Sexual intercourse or acts of sexual satisfaction with a person of the same sex who has not attained the age of 14 shall be punished by imprisonment of two to six years "(Article 157 (4)).
11Is sex between persons of the same sex criminalized in Bulgaria?
No longer. It was until 1968.
12 Is rape of a person of the same sex criminalized in Bulgaria?
Yes. According to Art. 157 of the Penal Code, "Whoever performs sexual intercourse or acts of sexual satisfaction with a person of the same sex using for that force or threat, or using a situation of dependence or oversight, as well as with a person without the possibility of self-defense, shall be punished by deprivation of liberty for two to eight years."
13Are crimes motivated by homophobic motives criminalized in Bulgaria?
No. There is punishment of murder and beating committed by "hooligan, racist or xenophobic motives".
14 Can a lawsuit for gender change be brought to court in Bulgaria?
Yes. In Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna there is a well-developed, positive court practice on gender-changing cases of transsexual and intersex persons. At first instance, the case lasts between 6 and 12 months.
15Can a case be brought to court for revealing intimate details of the sexual life in the media in Bulgaria?
Yes. In Sofia, such cases have been successfully conducted in the context of Art. 32 of the Constitution and Art. 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to privacy and the right to protection against violations of dignity. Media, such as “Weekend” newspaper and “Hot Topic” TV show, have been sentenced to pay benefits to public figures for pronounced suggestions or allegations of homosexual ties.
16 Are medical specialists required to keep the identity of HIV-infected patients in secret?
Yes. Ordinance No. 47 of 11.12.2009 on the conditions and procedure for testing, notifying and reporting of infection with the virus of acquired immune deficiency syndrome provides that "the health information related to the HIV status of a person cannot be disclosed or provided to third parties without his explicit written consent" and that "health information about the HIV positive status of individuals is stored: 1. under a code excluding the possibility of identifying the individual."
17Have cases of illegal dismissal been conducted in Bulgaria in the context of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation?
18Are teachers required to prevent cases of bullying over a LGBTI child?
Yes. The Pre-school and School Education Act provides that schools are required to carry out bullying and violence prevention activities as well as activities to motivate and overcome problematic behavior. The types and contents of bullying and violence prevention activities are developed independently by the school community and may include: 1. Drawing up rules together with the students for their conduct in the classroom; 2. Consider topics of global, civic, health and intercultural education during class time, during interest classes and optional lessons; 3. partnership with parents; 4. activities to develop the competences of all members of the school community.
19Does the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR) address complaints about LGBTI rights violations?
Yes. The ECHR has examined a number of cases of breaches of the right to respect for privacy, the right to respect for private and family life and the right to equal treatment of LGBTI persons. Moreover, the ECHR recognizes the seriousness of these issues and addresses them with priority over other offenses. The deadline for filing a complaint in the ECHR is 6 months, after exhaustion of the means for defense in Bulgaria.