Austria gets civil partnerships

Timothy Kincaid

November 19th, 2009

austriaThe battle over marriage equality is, in many ways, a battle over minutia, the details of which differ by location.

In the United States, in some states any concession of even the least controversial of rights is a great contention, while in others, the line in the sand appears to be protecting the “sanctity” of the label.

As an American, I don’t always fully understand European perspectives and may not get the full nuance. But as best I can tell, in Europe there seems to be a separate contention, one that is not given much importance in the United State: whether a ceremony can be performed and what building can be used. (And Europeans see adoption as part of the marriage question, while Americans see the issues as separate and state laws tend to treat them separately).

So, for example, in the UK the biggest distinction between marriage and civil unions (other than nomenclature) is that a gay couple cannot use a space that has been designated for religious use and cannot have a ceremony as part of their legal process.

To Americans it seems odd that a government would disallow a church the right to conduct a wedding. And the idea of banning people from conducting their union with the ceremony of their choice seems impending on liberty. In the United States, not only do the states that recognize marriage have no such restrictions, neither do any of the states that recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions. Americans care about “recognition” and what will be “taught in schools” and the “right” for religious folks to be obnoxious jerks and other such red herrings.

Indeed, among the first to rejoice with gay couples are always Unitarian and often many other religious leaders who delight in making their religious space available for the consecration of such unions. With as much ceremony as the couple desires.

But that is not the European way.

So it is not with much surprise that the new bill in Austria to legalize civil unions is one that emphasizes ceremony and participants. (AFP)

Austria’s government agreed a new law Tuesday allowing civil partnerships for homosexual couples, although ceremonies at the civil registry’s office will still be banned.

The compromise, achieved after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Social Democrats and their conservative coalition partner in government, will give gay couples equal rights to heterosexuals with regards to pensions and alimony.

The proposal came up against strong opposition from the conservative People’s Party, which fought any attempts to allow civil partnership ceremonies at the civil registry’s office, where gay couples can marry.

Instead, civil partnerships will be registered at the municipal office or the magistrate’s office — the local authority of which the registry’s office is only a part.

The change will be effective January 1 after final approval by parliament.

This is an important step for gay Austrians (not many of whom are like Bruno).

Prior to this legislation, laws applying to de facto couples, called unregistered cohabitation, also applied to same-sex couples as the result of a 2003 decision of the European Court of Human Rights. However such rights inherent in that status were limited and the protections and recognition of same-sex couples are greatly enhanced by this bill.

And perhaps some day soon Austrians will cease to care whether their gay brothers and sisters can also solemnize their unions with a ceremony and in what building they do so.


November 19th, 2009

The big difference is that most European countries have official state religions (Catholic in Austria, I believe). That said, most of them also seem to do a better job than the US at keeping religious and secular life separated. And I’m not entirely certain they’d object if a recognized sect without official state affiliation chose to celebrate same-sex unions.

Timothy (TRiG)

November 19th, 2009

In the UK, a registry office wedding is not allowed to have any religious content. You couldn’t even play a Bach mass.

And a civil partnership can be held only in a registry office, not elsewhere.

Therefore, all civil partnerships have to be non-religious ceremonies.

Awkward. And silly.


Personally, I prefer the French method of marriages: all weddings are non-religious and are held in the town hall. It is customary, but by no means necessary, to then head down the road to the church and have the priest bless your marriage. I think this allows for a clearer demarcation in people’s minds of the multiple different parts of a marriage. Oddly, France doesn’t yet have marriage equality, and its civil partnerships are not nearly as strong as those in the UK.

And here in Ireland we have nothing, yet. And Brian Cowen isn’t returning my letters. (He’s the Taoiseach, and also my TD.)


Timothy Kincaid

November 19th, 2009


I know that a bill for Civil Partnership has been published in Ireland and was expected to become law before year’s end.

Has there been any progress or any change in expectation?

Jutta Zalud

November 20th, 2009

The Austrian state does not *disallow* any church wedding, but only a civil marriage (usually at the townhall) or (in the future) a registration of partnerschip will entail any legal consquences. It’s like in France: once you have obtained your civil marriage you can go to the priest of your choice and have a church wedding.

There is no “state religion” in Austria, but the Roman Catholic church is still very important and influential (ca 75%). In fact, when we say “the church”, we mean RC. There is a protestant minority (5%), other denominations are even much smaller. So, it won’t be easy to find a priest or preacher to celebrate a same-sex wedding in the near future in Austria.

The dispute about the building and the ceremony ist mostly political and about symbols: of course it would be obvious to have the same civil-servants who are in charge of marriages also have perform registrations of partnerships, because they know how to do the job. But the conservative People’s Party just wanted to make registered partnerships distinct from marriage. The location is one of those (symbolic) disctinctions. The name is another one. A registered partner will have to apply for a name-change if he or she wants to have the partner’s last name and the last name will be called just that (“Nachname”) instead of “family name” (“Familenname”) … which means that a lot of official papers will have to be redesigned, so at least the paper producing and printing companies will have a benefit ;o)


November 20th, 2009

The Bill is supposed to come into effect next year, IIRC, but “published” in our laws doesn’t mean ratified, really. It could still be undone, it has to still go through another vote….maybe TRiG understands it better then I, I’m also Irish but politically apathetic…


November 20th, 2009

I’m an American citizen legally married to my Austrian same-sex partner. Oddly enough, I can get full Austrian citizenship as the spouse of an Austrian citizen. It involves jumping through quite a few hoops, but it is available. If we were to live in our apartment in Vienna, we would be recognized as legally married in Austria.

I really appreciate this blog and read it every day. Thanks for the great work!

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.