Austrian court rules that same-sex couples can marry

2017-12-05 22:47
In this June 27, 2008 file photo the President of the Austrian Constitutional Court Gerhart Holzinger announces a decision at the constitutional court in Vienna. Austria's Constitutional Court has decided on December 5 that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry by the beginning of 2019, ruling that the existing laws are discriminatory. (Hans Punz, AP, file)

In this June 27, 2008 file photo the President of the Austrian Constitutional Court Gerhart Holzinger announces a decision at the constitutional court in Vienna. Austria's Constitutional Court has decided on December 5 that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry by the beginning of 2019, ruling that the existing laws are discriminatory. (Hans Punz, AP, file)

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Berlin - Austria's Constitutional Court has decided that same-sex couples will be allowed to marry by the beginning of 2019, bringing the country in line with more than a dozen other western European nations.

In a ruling announced on Tuesday, the court said that the words "two people of different sex" will be removed from the law on marriage at the end of 2018 on the grounds that the distinction is discriminatory. Same-sex couples will be able to marry from the beginning of 2019, unless the government decides to change the laws earlier.

Same-sex couples in Austria have been allowed to enter civil partnerships since 2010, but until now haven't been able to marry.

The Constitutional Court took up the issue following a complaint from two women who were already in a partnership but were refused permission to enter a formal marriage by authorities in Vienna.

The Constitutional Court said that civil partnerships will remain an option after the law is changed, and will then be open to straight couples.

In a statement, Austria's Constitutional Court said "the distinction between marriage and civil partnership can no longer be maintained today without discriminating against same-sex couples", adding that keeping the two institutions separate suggests that "people with same-sex sexual orientation are not equal to people with heterosexual orientation".

Gay marriage has been legalised in many countries in western Europe, most recently in Germany, which for years was the biggest holdout. Almost a dozen other European countries have some sort of same-sex unions or civil partnerships, according to the Pew Research Centre.

Read more on:    austria  |  gay marriage

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