The European Court of Human Rights needs to find a balance between upholding diversity (and respecting sovereignty through the margin of appreciation doctrine) on the one hand, and the aspiration to set universal human rights standards, on the other. Responses to these opposing forces are reflected in various doctrines and methods of interpretation, judicial choices that often predetermine the outcome of a case. Through examples taken from the LGBT rights jurisprudence, the article explores how the competing notions of European consensus (a conservative one and a dynamic one) relate to other techniques of interpretation, and how they influence the decision-making of the Court. The article explains that the Court applies the notion of consensus in an arbitrary manner. While the conservative modalities of the consensus argument appear to constrain the Court and allow considerable leeway for domestic authorities, the dynamic notions facilitate the development of European human rights standards, even if it may not be evidenced convincingly by the practices of the member states. The article argues that in its current state, without a foreseeable and disciplined methodology, the consensus inquiry is not capable of building a bridge between the margin of appreciation and the dynamic interpretation.
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