Austria has passed a comprehensive civil unions law, but part of the compromise with the country's right wing includes a provision that gays cannot hold ceremonies at registry offices.
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. Partners will also be able to take each other's name, if they wish. But the new law will continue to ban adoption or artificial insemination for gay couples, said Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner, who had put forward the draft. 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. Conservative Interior Minister Maria Fekter welcomed the compromise on Tuesday: "We sought a realistic solution and this was (registration at) the local authority." Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek, the minister for women's affairs who had pushed for civil registry ceremonies, insisted however that the law was an "unfinished document." Tuesday's compromise was "an important first step" but future amendments were on the cards, the Social Democrat said.
The law goes into effect on January 1st after a final approval from parliament.