Recognition of same-sex unions in Austria
|Legal recognition of
† Not yet in effect
Austria has provided rights for de facto same-sex unions since 2003, following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Karner v. Austria. This status, called unregistered cohabitation, gives cohabiting same-sex couples the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners.
In December 2004, the SPÖ, then in opposition, adopted a major policy decision on the issue of equal treatment of same-sex couples. In addition to introducing registered partnerships, the party was heading towards subsequent opening up of marriage for same-sex couples. The party became leader of a grand coalition Government in January 2007.
While not allowing for new same-sex marriages to be contracted, Austria indirectly saw its first same-sex marriage when its constitutional court granted a transsexual woman the right to change her legal gender to female while remaining married to her wife.
An agreed draft was released in late October 2007 which would give couples in a registered partnership nearly the same rights as married couples, except for adoption rights.
In February 2009, Austria's Interior Minister Maria Fekter held conversations with a delegation of the Austrian LGBT-rights association Lambda (Rechtskomitee Lambda) concerning the issue of equal rights for LGBT people. Maria Fekter announced that the bill for a registered partnership (Eingetragene Partnerschaft) will be introduced and enacted in Autumn 2009 and would become legal on 1 January 2010.
On 12 October 2009, the Greens urged the government to keep to its promise of having registered partnerships implemented by January 2010 with Green justice spokesman Albert Steinhauser saying that time was running out for the proposed law. The party also called for opening up marriage to same-sex couples.
On 13 October 2009, the Austrian Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner announced that a registered partnership law would be announced "in a few weeks". She stated that such a law is in the process of being drafted, with some aspects of it still being under contention. A particular area of contention is whether registered partnerships should include a ceremony.
On November 17, 2009 the Government finally approved the registered partnership bill, proposed by the Minister of Justice. The bill was passed on December 10 by the National Council, the lower house of parliament, in a 110-64 vote. On December 18, it was passed by the Federal Council (upper house) in a 44-8 vote. On December 30, the law was published in Bundesgesetzblatt - government's journal and took effect on 1 January 2010.
On 19 February 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in X and Others v. Austria that a partner in a same-sex union has the right to adopt his or her partner's biological child. On 4 July 2013, the Austrian Parliament passed a government bill that allows stepchild adoption by same-sex couples. The law entered into force on 1 August 2013.
The Greens, the Social Democrats, and the NEOS support same-sex marriage. The Austrian LGBT rights organisation Rechtscomitee Lambda has highlighted the 72 differences between registered partnerships and marriage, and campaigns for Austrian marriage equality. Equality campaigners have questioned the current situation by challenging the lack of access to registered partnerships for opposite sex couples and the lack of access to marriage for same sex couples, with a heterosexual couple applying to have a registered partnership.
- CASE OF KARNER v. AUSTRIA
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