>The Austrian parliament passed a new law into effect last week, allowing same-sex civil unions in this country. It couldn’t bring itself to go all out and allow same-sex marriage, as Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden have done, but it joins a larger group in the EU which has taken steps to get there eventually. This group includes Denmark, The Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Switzerland and the UK.
The Austrian Freedom Party typically voted no (with a couple of exceptions), and the Greens argued that the law didn’t go far enough (and rightly so) but the bill passed with a vote of 110 to 64.
The Greens’ problem with the new law is that it has a few nasty elements to it — it formally outlaws same-sex couples from adopting children or from artificial insemination (I have to wonder how one can enforce the latter, considering that turkey basters are still legal… I suppose they mean that hospitals cannot carry it out.) And these couples cannot get registered at the regular Civil Registry Office (as all marrying couples must do), but at another office somewhere. One person likened it to having all the romance of registering your automobile.
But the Austrian gay-rights organization HOSI (Homosexuelle Initiative) lauded the bill as being a realistic step in the right direction and a “milestone, that brings 95-98 % equal footing to marriage. In matters of rights of foreigners and access to a deceased partner’s pension, it’s more or less the same” as the rights of heterosexual married couples. Ulrike Lunacek of the Greens: “It’s an important first step to comprehensive equality. But it’s only the beginning.”
The new law will go into effect on January 1st.