SLU LAW Welcomes Distinguished Visiting International Jurist Lech Garlicki

March 22, 2016

SLU LAW’s Center for International and Comparative Law welcomes Judge Lech Garlicki as a Distinguished Visiting International Jurist from March 21 through April 1, 2016. Judge Garlicki will give a public lecture on March 29 on constitutional rights in regards to same-sex marriage.

Judge Garlicki is an accomplished jurist and constitutional law specialist from Poland who has served on both the Constitutional Court of Poland (1993-2001) and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (2002-2012). His primary teaching and research interests focus on constitutional law, judicial review, European law, comparative law, human rights, and comparative government. Prior to his time on the bench, he was a professor of law at Warsaw University. He has recently served as a visiting professor at various top law schools around the world, including Tel Aviv University, Hong Kong University, New York University and Yale Law School.

Judge Garlicki is vice president of the International Association of Constitutional Law and one of the founding members of the European Law Institute. He is author or editor of over 300 publications in different languages, including a five-volume Commentary to the 1997 Constitution of Poland and two-volume Commentary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is a great honor for Saint Louis University School of Law to host such an accomplished international jurist,” said William P. Johnson, professor and director of the Center for International and Comparative Law. “Judge Garlicki has been a very good friend of SLU LAW for many years, and it would be a pleasure to welcome him back to St. Louis under most any circumstances. However, considering the events that are currently taking place in Eastern Europe and throughout the region, including the continuing crisis in Ukraine and the recent election in Poland, Judge Garlicki’s visit is especially timely. I am thrilled that we have this rare opportunity to engage with him.”

Next spring, Garlicki will join SLU LAW as a Visiting International Professor and will teach a two-credit course on comparative human rights.

The following is a summary of Garlicki’s upcoming lecture:

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court extended the reach of the U.S. Constitution to the area of same-sex marriages. Europe, seen as a whole, seems to fall behind. While, in some countries, a right to same-sex marriage is acknowledged at the statutory level, its constitutional status remains unclear. And in many other countries legislation is less open towards same-sex couples. This is also seen at the supranational level, particularly in the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

On the one hand, the European Court developed a sound jurisprudence protecting human rights independently on the sexual orientation of their holders. At first (1981), it held that the European Convention on Human Rights forbids imposition of criminal sanction on homosexual activities. Later (since 1999), it included sexual orientation in its list of “suspect classifications” under Article 14 of the Convention. In effect, distinctions based on sexual orientation are, in principle, regarded as violating the prohibition of discrimination.

At the same time, however, the European Court is not ready to confirm that the right to marry (guaranteed in Article 12 of the Convention) applies to same-sex couples. While the Court continues to strike down discriminatory regulations, it also invokes the concept of “margin of appreciation” to abstain from entering into such sensitive areas like same-sex partnerships or adoptions. It was only in 2015 (Oliari and Others v. Italy) when one of the chambers of the Court held that there is a “positive obligation” to introduce a specific legal framework providing for the recognition and protection of same-sex unions. Whether and how it would be continued in the future remains still unknown.


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