Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Susanne Baer

Legal News

Supreme Court of Sweden upholds claim for damages in a case of discrimination against lesbian couple

On 28 March 2006 the Supreme Court of Sweden delivered its ruling in the first restaurant discrimination case tried under new (in force 1 July 2003) civil law anti-discrimination legislation. The Swedish Ombudsman against Discrimination on the grounds of Sexual Orientation, Mr. Hans Ytterberg, had filed a law suit against a restaurant which had turned away a lesbian couple because the two women had kissed and hugged each other on the premises. The City Court of Stockholm ruled against the Ombudsman but upon appeal the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling, found for the Ombudsman and ordered the restaurant company to pay 50000 SEK (approx. 5500 Euros or 6500 US dollars) in damages. The restaurant company appealed to the Supreme Court, which granted that the case be heard.

In its ruling the Supreme Court confirms that the interpretation of the burden of proof rules submitted by the Ombudsman was indeed correct and concluded, as did the Court of Appeals, that the restaurant had not proved that there were legitimate reasons that had nothing to do with their sexual orientation for turning the couple away. However when it comes to the size of the damages awarded, the Supreme Court ignored the Ombudsman’s arguments that Swedish law had to be interpreted in accordance with European Community law, which in the Directive 2000/43/EC, demands that sanctions be effective and dissuasive. The Supreme Court found that 15000 SEK (approx. 1500 Euros or 2000 US dollars) was adequate compensation.

The Ombudsman ( commented on the ruling, saying that it is of course positive that the Highest court in the land had made it clear that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is unacceptable, while deploring at the same time the fact that the Court had ignored the need for protection against such discrimination to be effective and dissuasive. The Ombudsman concluded by stating that he would now have to consider proposing to the Government amended legislation on the one hand and on the other hand demanding that the courts in other pending cases ask for a preliminary ruling from the Court of Justice in Luxemburg as to what is meant by ‘effective’ and ‘dissuasive’ in the directives against discrimination, with respect to the level of damages awarded as compensation for discrimination.

Swiss Law on Civil Union

The referendum of 5th June 2005 has been clearly accepted with 58% of the votes. The new bill recognizes homosexual couples by way of registration of their partnership. Click here for the text in German.

Council of the European Union

Directive on „Equality between men and women extended to the access and supply to goods and services“ of 13th December 2004. Click here.