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Christian Högl, HOSI Wien President
Austrian Parliament will adopt registered partnership bill

in AUSTRIA, 09/12/2009

Tomorrow, 10 December 2009, the International Human Rights Day, will be a historic day for lesbians and gays in Austria: Parliament will adopt a Registered Partnership Bill for same-sex couples that will come into force on 1 January 2010. The Bill was prepared by the ruling coalition government between Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Christian Democrats (ÖVP – conservative People’s Party) who have a comfortable majority in Parliament. Therefore, no surprises are to be expected when it comes to a vote tomorrow.

The Registered Partnership Bill will bring about 95-98 % equality in comparison with marriage and therefore is a huge first step – bearing in mind that the ÖVP had to agree to the law. In most relevant and important legal areas such as immigration, social insurance and pension legislation or inheritance, there will be even full equality. But opening-up marriage was not up for debate as the conservative party had absolutely ruled out such an option. However, as Austria has very outdated marriage legislation (some of the provisions date back to 1812 and have never been changed since!) including one of the strictest divorce legislations in the whole of Europe, simply opening-up traditional marriage for same-sex couples without modernising marriage legislation has neither been an option for part of the Austrian LGBT movement.

Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) Wien, Austria’s oldest and leading gay and lesbian organisation, therefore, has always been fighting for a modern alternative to marriage such as registered partnership based on the Scandinavian or Swiss models. “What we have got now is actually quite comparable with the law in Switzerland where access to adoption and artificial insemination has also been excluded from the partnership law”, explains HOSI Wien president Jona Solomon. “That was again a categorical no-go for the Christian Democrats.” However, both adoption and artificial insemination are not exclusively linked to marriage in Austria as adoption is possible by a single person, too, and artificial insemination is also possible for non-married opposite-sex couples living in a domestic partnership.

“Another flaw of the Austrian law, however, is that registration will not take place at the same venue as marriage (city hall) but at a so-called administrative authority at district level”, says HOSI Wien president Christian Högl. “However, in cities such as Vienna, these authorities coincide in place, and therefore registration will take place in the same buildings and even rooms.”

“Despite these flaws, the law is a great success and victory for HOSI Wien”, explains secretary-general Kurt Krickler. “We have been fighting for this piece of legislation for more than 20 years. And we are quite happy that we succeeded to get more progressive divorce rules. For example, a registered partner will only be able to block the dissolution of the partnership up to
three years, while a spouse can block the divorce of a marriage up to six years. Unlike for marriage, there will not be a state-imposed fidelity duty on registered partners, and consequently adultery will not be considered a reason for dissolving a registered partnership.”

“Of course, HOSI Wien will continue to struggle for the right to access to adoption and artificial insemination and for the right to register the partnership at city hall”, says Solomon. “And we are convinced that we sooner or later will succeed – once Austrian society has got used to registered same-sex couples. We do hope it will not take another 20 years!”

For more info, contact:
Kurt Krickler
Secretary-General

Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) Wien –
1. Lesben- und Schwulenverband Österreichs
Novaragasse 40, 1020 Wien
ZVR-Nr. 524 534 408, UID ATU64602914

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