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Constitutional Court Affirms Registered Partnership | Hungary

The Hungarian Constitutional Court has delivered its opinion on the Act on Registered Partnership that entered into force on July 1, 2009. The Court considered nine petitions among them a petition from the Christian Democratic Peoples Party (sister party of FIDESZ, the likely winner of the forthcoming general elections) and rejected them all, declaring that the Act is in line with constitutional requirements.

The legislative history of the Registered Partnership Act started three years ago when following the failed attempt of the liberal party to open up marriage for same-sex couples, the governing socialist-liberal coalition passed a bill on registered partnership (open for both same-sex and different-sex couples) in December 2007. The bill, however, never entered into force as in December 2008 the Constitutional Court declared it unconstitutional on the grounds that allowing different-sex couples to enter into a relationship very similar to marriage would duplicate the institution of marriage, and would therefore be incompatible with the special protection of marriage enshrined in the Constitution. Following the decision, the Parliament adopted a new, revised version of the Act in April 2009 that opened up the institution of registered partnership only to same-sex couples.

Soon after its adoption, conservative forces including the Christian Democratic Peoples Party, the Society for Christian Physicians in Hungary, the Pro Life Forum linked to the Catholic Church and representatives of Faith Church, a powerful Pentecostal church submitted nine petitions contending the unconstitutionality of the Act. The arguments were diverse: some argued that the new institution undermines the institution of marriage, others that excluding different-sex couples is discriminatory. There were legalistic arguments against the technique of codification (a general clause equating registered partnership with marriage for most purposes), but also religious arguments that homosexuality is disorderly and immoral. Several petitions claimed that by institutionalizing and promoting homosexuality the law harms the children. The Court rejected each of these claims one by one, reaffirming its previous decision that the right of same-sex couples to legal recognition and protection can be derived from the constitutional principle of human dignity and that the introduction of an institution similar to marriage for same-sex couples is a duty of the state imposed by the Constitution. The Court also added that the law will play a positive role in promoting the social acceptance of same-sex couples and help gays and lesbians to come out. As opposed to the generally positive tone of the decision, the Court also noted that not all differences between marriage and registered partnership are necessarily discriminatory, giving discretionary power to the legislator in deciding on the actual rights and duties that come with registered partnership.

According to the Hungarian legislation, registered partnership is a family law institution that is established by joint declaration in front of a registrar. The rules governing the establishment and dissolution of registered partnership are the same as for marriage, and registered partners are entitled to most of the rights available for married couples. Notable exceptions are the right to take the partners name, the right to adopt children and the right to participate in assisted reproduction. Conservative opposition parties expected to win elections next month strongly criticized the law for making registered partnership so similar to marriage. At this point it is unclear whether the new Constitutional Court decision will deter them from weakening the institution of registered partnership once in power.

Tams Dombos
Httr Society for LGBT People

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