LGBT rights in Austria

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LGBT rights in Austria
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1971,
age of consent equalized in 2002
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
relationships
Unregistered cohabitation since 2003,
Registered partnership since 2010
Same-sex marriage not recognised
Adoption Couples in registered partnership not legally entitled to adopt
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve
Discrimination protections Protection for sexual orientation in labor code since 2004, other protections vary by region (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Austria may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Austria, and registered partnership are to be introduced in 2010 but couples will still not be able to adopt or have access to IVF and artificial insemination. [1]

The country, while dominated by Roman Catholicism, is slowly becoming more liberal with laws and social opinions concerning sexual orientation and gender identity.

Laws against homosexuality

Non-commercial homosexual sex acts between consenting adults in private have been legal since 1971. The age of consent was equalized in 2002 by court decision[2] . Homosexuals are not banned from military service.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Karner v. Austria, cohabitating same-sex couples were able to have the same rights as cohabitating opposite-sex couples.

It was planned that the Registered Partnership Bill 2008 (based on the Swiss model) would be indroduced to the assembly in September 2008, however, as the current coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives broke apart and early elections were scheduled for 28 September 2008 progress came in December 2009.

In February 2009 Austria's Interior Minister Dr. Maria Fekter held conversations with a delegation of the Austrian LGBT-right association Lambda (Rechtskomitee Lambda) concerning the issue to equate the rights of LGBT people. Dr. Maria Fekter announced that the bill for a registered partnership (Eingetragene Partnerschaft) will be introduced and enacted in autumn 2009 and would become legal on 1 January 2010.[3]

On 10 December 2009, Autrian National Council of Austria voted for the bill. [4] The bill was successful and from 1 Jan 2010 same-sex couples will be able to have registered partnership, an institution distinct from marriage: something in which same-sex couples still will not be able to partake. Same-sex couples will still not be able to adopt or have access to IVF and artificial insemination. [1]

A European Union poll surveying Austrians, showed their support for gay marriage at 49%.[5]

Although straight couples do not currently have access to registered partnerships, some have argued that just as LGBT couples should have access to same-sex marriage, so it should be the case that straight couples should have analogous access to registered partnerships as a relationship recognition option [6]

Discrimination protections

There is an anti-discrimination law in the Labour Code, at the federal level since 2004 and six out of the nine federal republics have established anti-discrimination laws within their area of competence that also cover sexual orientation. The 1993 Police Security Act requires the police to refrain from any actions that could create the impression of bias or that could be perceived as discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Vienna state has had its Youth Protection Law since 2002, and one city, Bludenz, has adopted a symbolic non-discrimination declaration which includes sexual orientation in 1998. The Federal Constitution theoretically protects all citizens equally but the reality is that it does not apply to sexual orientation and several judgements of the Constitutional Court confirm these unequal treatment[7][8][9] .

LGBT rights and political debates

The first major parliamentary debates on that issue took place in the mid-1990s, initiated by the Liberal Forum LIF which was campaigning strongly against discrimination of homosexuals which at that time existed through §209, 220 and 221 StGB and for complete equality of treatment also including marriage and adoption. The Social Democrats and the Green Party at that time showed support for the issue of equal treatment of same-sex couples.

After the LIF did not pass the four percent electoral threshold in the 1999 elections, the Social Democrats and the Green Party started to embrace this issue more. The SPÖ on its biannual Federal Party Convention made a decision on the issue of equal treatment of same-sex couples. They proposed a model of registered partnership ("Eingetragene Partnerschaft") including stepparent adoption. The Austrian Green Party introduced the civil pact ("Zivilpakt") as somewhat similar model to that of the Social Democrats in 2004.

However, progress is visible to a limited extend. Since 1998, Austria recognizes the right not to testify against their partner if the partner is of the same sex, as amended in Criminal Code. In 2001, the constitutional court rescinded §209 StGB which lead to the introduction of § 207b was introduced as a substitute by the coalition of the conservative ÖVP and the right wing FPÖ and is seen as being discriminating in a more indirect way than § 209 StGB. Following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in case of Karner v Austria [2003], cohabiting same-sex partners are entitled to the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners. In 2005, the Green Party campaigned heavily for registered partnership during the Vienna election campaign in 2005. On July 26 2006, the first legal same-sex marriage came into existence, when Angelika Frasl, a transsexual woman with two children, was permitted by the constitutional court to change her legal gender to female while remaining married to her wife. See Same-sex marriage in Austria.

It was not thought likely that the coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats formed in 2007 would result in major steps towards more equality quickly. Although the then Minister of Justice, Maria Berger, a social democrat, intended to improve the situation, she herself expected huge opposition by the conservative coalition partner ÖVP[10], most likely because her situation was similar to that of her predecessor Karin Gastinger who failed on the same issue. Furthermore, Maria Fekter, former chairperson of the parliamentary committee for judiciary and since 1 July 2008 minister of the interior repeatedly announced her opposition against registered same-sex partnerships and that conservative values will prevail (see p282)]. Though, despite such opposition, partnerships were approved in December 2009[1].

Other, more conservative, political parties tend to oppose LGBT rights. Although, much speculation has been made about the sexual orientation of Jorg Haider, who took control of the right-wing Freedom Party in 1986 and then later created the more mainsteam conservative Alliance for Austria's Future [Out Magazine February 2009, Pg. 46 - 51].

Living conditions

The gay scene is developed in all major cities such as Vienna, Linz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Graz.

See also

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Austria's parliament legalises civil unions. PinkNews.co.uk (2009-12-10). Retrieved on 2009-12-11.
  2. RIS Dokument. Ris2.bka.gv.at. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.
  3. Registered partnership on 1. January 2010 (2009-02-18). Retrieved on 2009-02-18.
  4. TIMM:Österreichs Parlament beschließt Lebenspartnerschaft (german)
  5. Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage: Angus Reid Global Monitor. Angus-reid.com. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.
  6. "Austrians seek right to partnerships created for gays" BBC News: 17.05.2010: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8687064.stm
  7. RIS Dokument. Ris2.bka.gv.at. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.
  8. RIS Dokument. Ris2.bka.gv.at. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.
  9. RIS Dokument. Ris2.bka.gv.at. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.
  10. Berger im STANDARD-Interview: "Bei Homosexuellen-Ehe etwas mehr zustande bringen" - Nachrichten in Echtzeit auf derStandard.at/Politik/Inland/Nach der Wahl - österreich.... Derstandard.at. Retrieved on 2008-11-04.

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