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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for December, 2009

Austria’s Civil Unions passed by legislature

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2009

In November we informed you that the Austrian government had agreed to a bill which would enact Civil Unions. The AP is reporting that the bill has now passed the legislature:

Earlier in the day, Hoegl and co-president Jona Solomon passed out pink rum-filled cupcakes to parliamentarians, along with a letter that urged them to vote yes.

The legislation — considered a compromise between the governing coalition — did not pass unanimously. In the end, of the 174 lawmakers who cast ballots, 110 voted in favor of the bill, and 64 voted against it.

The opposition right-wing Freedom Party rejected it outright, saying it goes too far. The Greens, on the other hand, argued it was too limited.

Congratulations, Austrians.

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.

Austria to Consider Civil Unions

Timothy Kincaid

October 25th, 2007

austria.jpg

Many of Austria’s neighboring states have some form of recognition for the rights of same-sex couples. German has Life Partnerships, Switzerland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic have Registered Partnerships, and Hungary has limited inheritance rights recognition. Only Slovakia and Italy have no recognition and most observers believe that Italy will soon join the rest of Western Europe.

Austria will now consider providing recognition for same-sex couples.

SPÖ Justice minister Maria Berger’s proposed new partnerships law will be considered by a bipartisan working group.

The People’s Party announced earlier this month that it would support civil unions similar to those in Switzerland.

It is too early to make predictions but it is encouraging that there is support from within both of the coaltion ruling parties.