Constitutional Court of Austria gives green light to same-sex marriage

In the not-too-distant future, Austrian same-sex couples will be able to get married. Surprisingly, it was the Constitutional Court, not the politicians, who took the step towards equality.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Constitutional Court of Austria gives green light to same-sex marriage - NewsMavens
Same-sex marriage. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

In Austria, the so-called “marriage for all” has been the topic of a prolonged, yet heated debate. Finally, on December 5, the Constitutional Court decided to legalize it. The new law will come into force by January 2019.

The court justified its decision by appealing to the principle of equality -- a value which Austria should uphold, according to the judges. The current regulation will be repealed on December 31, 2018, which means that no later than on January 1, 2019 Austrian same-sex will gain the right to marry. Unless, of course, the parliament does not change the regulation in the meantime.

The court also reassessed the entire Registered Partnership Act (EPG). It repealed the provisions previously limiting the registered partnership to same-sex couples. From 2019 onwards, this form of partnership will be open to couples of different sexes. Again -- if legislators do not interfere.

In her commentary, Der Standard editor Irene Brickner describes what she defines as the "Austrian paradox". While the country is veering to the right, at times even far-right, “marriage for all" is legalized. 

"Austria is among the top 20 countries worldwide that no longer maintain a legal hierarchy between heterosexual and homosexual partnerships. At the same time, traditional gender roles are deeply rooted in the society."

Although surveys conducted in recent years have repeatedly shown that the majority of Austrians express liberal views on the rights of homosexual people, the two election winners, ÖVP and FPÖ, see it differently.

"Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said during the elections that it is completely adequate that only the registered partnership be available to homosexual people. At the same time, the constitutional judges deem it to have a 'discriminatory effect'," comments Brickner.

To conclude, she declared that nowadays the Constitutional Court has the role of "an Austria-specific," sociopolitical designer.

Details from the story:

  • On December 5, the Constitutional Court decided to legalize marriage for all in Austria. It will come into force by January 1, 2019.
  • Since 2010, Austrians have had the opportunity to enter into registered partnerships. The state legally recognizes the union and the couple may choose a common family name. However, in some respects, the registered partnership is not an equivalent of marriage.
  • Austrians are positive about the changes. According to a survey, about 62% of them believe that marriage for all should be allowed in all of Europe.
  • Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 24 countries worldwide, including France, Spain, Denmark and Argentina. The Netherlands was the first state to pass such a law in 2001. In most regions, but not all over the state, "marriage for all" is allowed in, among other places, the United States, the United Kingdom and Mexico.
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