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Constitutional Court: Same Ceremony as for Marriage | Austria

Rechtskomitee LAMBDA sees governing coalition disgraced.

In a decision delivered today the Austrian Constitutional Court has ordered to apply the same ceremony (wedding vow, witnesses etc.) for the formation of registered partnerships as for marriage. And it started proceedings to repeal the law prohibiting the performance registered partnerships outside the authority´s office-rooms. Rechtskomitee LAMBDA (RKL), Austria’s LGBT civil rights organisation, welcomes the decision and sees the federal governing coalition disgraced as just last month they have passed this law anew

RKL-Secretary General Walter Dietz and his partner Boontawee Suttasom are living in Vienna and have been a couple for over 17 years. Manfred Hörmann and Felix Moser have been a couple for many years and are jointly running a farm in Stallhofen in Styria. Both couples had applied for the performance of a registered partnership like a “dream wedding” as it is offered to marrying couples, namely by a wedding vow in front of witnesses on the Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel and their own farm.

Decision on a wedding-dreamdate (12.12.12)
Austrian federal law prohibits the formation of registered partnerships outside the authority´s office-rooms (only exception: prisoners). Outside, like in the Giant Ferris Wheel, in a castle or on a farm; there civil servants are only allowed to hand over the documents (after the formation of the partnership within the office-rooms).

Both couples´ applications have been rejected and the case went up to the Constitutional Court, which now agreed with the applicants (VfGH 12.12.12, B 125/11, B 138/11).

Also same-sex couples enjoy the protection of family life under the European Convention of Human Rights and differences between marriage and registered partnership can only be justified by particularly serious reasons, the Constitutional Court said in its decision taken on a wedding-dreamdate (12.12.12).

Worldwide unique discrimination
The 14 constitutional judges could find no reasonable justification for the exclusion of a wedding vow and of witnesses. Neither could they find a basis for this legal practice in the legislation. They therefore ordered that authorities, with immediate effect, have to apply the same ceremony for registered partnerships as for marriages (including the wedding vow, the dictum that the partners now are lawfully bonded spouses or registered partners, and, if the couples so wish, including witnesses).

Also for the prohibition on the performance of registered partnerships outside the authority´s office-rooms the Constitutional Court could find no reasonable justification. In no other area authorities are obliged to confine their administrative acts to their office-rooms, the Court said and instigated proceedings to repeal this law.

The prohibition on the performance of registered partnerships outside the authority´s office-rooms is an Austrian anomaly. No other country in the world ever applied such discrimination. Nevertheless the federal governing coalition just one month (!) ago has passed this law anew.

„The Constitutional Court´s decision disgraces the federal government to the bone“, says Dr. Helmut Graupner, president of Austria’s LGBT civil rights organisation Rechtskomitee LAMBDA (RKL) and counsel of the applicants, “the government should start to govern and repeal all the discriminations of registered partnership instead of leaving this workload to the courts”.

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