European Court: Gay Refugees May Have Grounds for Asylum

Decision impacts all 28 member states

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The European Union’s top court ruled Thursday that refugees who face imprisonment for being gay in their home countries might have cause for E.U. asylum.

Sexual orientation is a “characteristic fundamental to a person’s identity,” the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice found, and laws that imprison homosexuals “may constitute an act of persecution per se” if they are routinely enforced.

Dozens of countries around the world — many of them in Africa and the Middle East — have laws that criminalize people based on their sexual identity. It’s unclear how authorities will be able to prove a refugee’s claim of being homosexual; the same court isn’t expected to rule on that issue this year.