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On April 1, 2001, just a few seconds after midnight, Mayor of Amsterdam was the first registrar in the world to marry a gay couple. That night four same-sex couples tied the knot, followed by another 382 who married in the same month.

Currently sixteen European countries fully recognize same-sex marriages, while thirteen recognize a form of civil union between same-sex persons. Same-sex couples are able to enjoy a full joint adoption in seventeen European countries.

Meanwhile, almost one-fifth a century later since the breakthrough events in Amsterdam, there is virtually no same-sex partnership recognition in six EU member states.

Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia still have minimal-to-no access to LGBT family rights, therefore 6 LGBT rights organizations operating in the respective countries have joined their long-standing expertise to promote family diversity and improve socio-legal conditions for LGBT families.

However, the local communities and LGBTI rights organizations in these countries continue their constant effort towards achieving rights for rainbow families. In Bulgaria we see positive developments in the last couple of years with the positive court decision of the Supreme administrative court from 2019, which recognized the right of free movement for same-sex couples within the EU and a EU-level petition, disseminated by Bilitis Resource Center, which received more than 17 000 signatures urging the EU authorities to ensure the rights of rainbow families.

In December 2019, the Bulgarian LGBTI organizations “Bilitis”, “GLAS” and “Deystvie” launched the “Family for Everyone” campaign, which aims on urging the authorities to recognize registered partnerships as an official form of partnership both between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The campaign invites couples and individuals, no matter of their sexual orientation, to file applications at the Sofia municipality, stating that they want to have their partnership registered. The organizations invited everyone to join them on 14th of February 2020 between 9:30 and 17:30 in front of the main building of Sofia Municipality to file their applications, celebrate love and take a step forward towards equality. For everyone who was not able to join the action, there was an option to file the application online. More than 150 applications were submitted (the campaign ends on the 18th of February and the exact number will be reported soon by Sofia Municipality).

Raising awareness for Inclusive Societies to Embrace rainbow families in Europe (R.I.S.E) is a project composed of a variety of activities, designed to increase understanding on the every-day challenges and obstacles of an insufficient legal base as well as to respond to social stigma encountered by local LGBT families.

Same-sex couples mostly remain invisible in said societies and face difference in treatment in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. Such couples have very limited legal guarantees, e.g. they cannot become officially married, form a civil partnership, apply for a joint adoption together, nor become joint guardians of a child.

Rainbow Families do not have an option to officially form a typical family units, thus there is no possibility for them to receive the corresponding social security benefits. Variety of difficulties emerge in everyday life, making it next to impossible to apply for a financial loan as partners or acquire a joint ownership of an immovable property, among numerous others.

R.I.S.E. strives to achieve a positive change in terms of a non-discriminatory portrayal of LGBT families among general population and improve awareness on restricted quality of life of LGBT families on a decision maker level.

The project is implemented by the National LGBT rights organization LGL (Lithuania), LGBT and their Friends Association Mozaika (Latvia); Love Does Not Exclude Association MNW (Poland), Association ACCEPT (Romania), Iniciatíva Inakost (Slovakia).

Prepared as a part of the project “Raising awareness for Inclusive Societies to Embrace rainbow families in Europe (R.I.S.E)” with the financial support of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme of the European Union.