Austria Becomes Latest European Country to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

By Jenilyn Brhel
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

VIENNA, Austria – Beginning in 2019, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Austria.

Marchers at The Regenbogenparade, or Rainbow Parade, in Vienna. Photo Courtesy of Alex Halada.

On Tuesday, December 5th, Austria’s Constitutional Court published a ruling that lifts the ban on same-sex marriage by the end of 2018 –  unless the government lifts the ban prior to that.

The words “two people of different sex” will be removed from Austria’s marriage law and same-sex couples will have access to the same benefits and privileges as those currently granted to heterosexual partners, including adoption and support for fertility treatments.

Same-sex couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships since 2010, but have not been given the option to legally marry.

The ruling was prompted by the Court’s examination of a 2009 law, following a complaint made by two women already in a civil partnership who were now allowed to enter into a legal marriage by authorities in Vienna.

The womens’ lawyer, Helmut Graupner, spoke of the the ruling on social media and applauded Austria’s Court for recognizing equality for same-sex couples as a “fundamental human right.” All the other European states with marriage equality introduced it as (just) “the political way.”

“The distinction between marriage and civil partnership can no longer be maintained today without discriminating against same-sex couples,” the Court stated. It also noted that keeping the two institutions separate suggests that “people with same-sex sexual orientation are not equal to people with heterosexual orientation.”

The decision brings Austria in line with more than a dozen other European countries that have recently legalized gay marriage. The Netherlands was the first. That decision came in 2001. There are now 25 countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriage. Several European countries, including Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, have yet to follow suit.

The decision did not come without criticism. The far-right Freedom Party claimed that the ruling disrespected the concept of traditional marriage. “Now there is equal treatment for something that’s not equal,” said the party’s secretary general, Herbert Kickl.

The archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schöborn, told news outlets that he remained hopeful that the decision would be overturned in Austria, a largely Roman Catholic nation.

Despite the push-back, the Austrian People’s Party, led by Sebastian Kurz, winner of the general election in October, said it would accept the ruling.

“We are very happy,” said The Homosexual Initiative of Vienna chairman Christian Hoegl. “We want to use the opportunity for a renewed call for a fundamental reform of marriage.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News = Austrian Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage – 5 December 2017

Chicago Tribune – Austrian Constitutional Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage – 5 December 2017

The Independent – Austria Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage From Start of 2019, Ruling all Existing laws Discriminatory – 5 December 2017

The New York Times – Austria Allows Gay Marriage in Court Ruling – 5 December 2017

Reuters – Austria’s Supreme Court Paves way for Same-Sex Marriage From 2019 – 5 December 2017

Author: Jenilyn Brhel

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