Recognition of same-sex unions in Austria
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* 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.
In January 2015, the Constitutional Court found the existing laws on adoption to be unconstitutional and ordered the laws to be changed by 31 December 2015 to allow joint adoption by same-sex couples.
The Greens, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), 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 same-sex marriage. 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.
The SPÖ-ÖVP coalition government was continued following the September 2013 elections. Even though SPÖ campaigned for LGBT rights, the coalition agreement does not include any progress on LGBT rights due to opposition by the conservative ÖVP.
In 2013 a case was filed with the Constitutional Court by a same-sex couple married in the Netherlands and resident in Austria that wanted to get married under Austrian law to do away with uncertainties regarding their marital status. On 12 March 2014 the case was dismissed.
On 18 June 2015, the Parliament rejected a resolution proposed by the Greens that would require the government to introduce same-sex marriage legislation. Out of 136 representatives, 26 voted for and 110 voted against the proposal. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) voted against, pointing to the fact their coalition partner ÖVP oppose same-sex marriage. NEOS (except MP Christoph Vavrik) supported the resolution, whereas Team Stronach and FPÖ joined the two governing parties in opposing the resolution.
A November 2013 poll by Market for Der Standard found that 61% support same-sex marriage (41% fully support, 20% tend to support) while 33% do not (15% fully oppose, 18% tend to oppose). Adoption by same-sex couples is supported by 56% (35% fully support, 21% tend to support) and opposed by 37% (22% fully oppose, 15% tend to oppose).
A May 2014 poll by Market for ORF found that 73% support same-sex marriage. 48% fully support, 25% tend to support, 9% tend to oppose and 15% fully oppose, while 3% did not answer. Support is higher among women and younger people.
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