Europe

Austrian Supreme Court rules in favour of same-sex marriage

A same-sex themed traffic light in Vienna, Austria Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The ruling will bring Austria in line with 15 other European countries

Same-sex couples in Austria will be able to legally marry from 2019 after a ruling by the country's top court.

Its constitutional court said the current marriage law violated non-discrimination rules. The ruling also allows heterosexual couples to enter a civil partnership.

The move will bring the country in line with 15 other European countries.

The Netherlands became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage, in 2001.

The case was heard after a female couple challenged a 2009 law which allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples, but not marriage.

In a statement, the court said the distinction between the different kinds of unions could not be upheld because it was discriminatory against same-sex relationships, as it forced people to disclose their sexual orientation in situations where that was not relevant.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Neighbours Germany voted to legalise same-sex marriage earlier this year

Lawyer Helmut Graupner, who represented the couple, praised the ruling on social media. He applauded the Austrian court for recognising equality for same-sex couples as a "fundamental human right".

The move has divided the country's incoming coalition government - the conservative People's Party (OVP) said they would accept the decision, but the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) criticised the court.

Both parties voted against same-sex marriage when it came before parliament earlier this year.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in 25 countries around the world.

Austria's neighbours Germany voted to legalise same-sex marriage in June.

Elsewhere Australians recently decisively backed a change to their laws in a postal vote - the result was non-binding but campaigners hope the result will push lawmakers to legalise same-sex unions.

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