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Gay marriage in Austria approved by Constitutional Court

Austria's top court has ruled that current laws are discriminatory and must be lifted by 2019. Same-sex couples have so far only been afforded "registered partnerships."

Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in Austria from 2019, according to a ruling by the country's Constitutional Court announced on Tuesday.

Same-sex couples in Austria have been able to enter only into "registered partnerships" since 2010, with nearly the same rights of married couples. But the court ruled that "the distinction between marriage and registered partnership ... cannot be upheld in this day and age without discriminating against same-sex couples."

Read more: Germans celebrate first gay marriages

"The resulting discriminatory effect is seen in the fact that through the different title of the family status, people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations in which it is not, and must not be, relevant and ... are highly likely to be discriminated against," the court said in its ruling.

Decision will maintain civil partnerships

It said that restrictions on same-sex marriage would be lifted at the end of 2018 unless the government did so itself earlier. The ruling will remove the words "two people of different sex" from the law on marriage. It will keep civil partnerships as an option and will open them up to straight couples.

The court ruled on the issue after two women in a registered civil partnership went to court after they were denied the right to marry by authorities in the capital Vienna.

"We are very happy," Homosexual Initiative Vienna Chairman Christian Hoegl told Reuters news agency. "We want to use the opportunity for a renewed call for a fundamental reform of marriage."

Austria has lagged behind several of its Western European neighbors in approving same-sex marriage. Even Germany surprisingly took the step in the run-up to last year's general election, although critics said Chancellor Angela Merkel was primarily looking to neutralize a probable opposition talking point.

aw/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)

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