Austria is considered to be a moderate to populist country when dealing with gay rights. The country, while dominated by Roman Catholicism, is slowly becoming more liberal with laws concerning homosexuality.

Laws against homosexualityEdit

Homosexuality was legalised in 1971. The age of consent was equalized in 2002 by court decision. Homosexuals are not banned from military service.

Protection based on sexual orientation in lawEdit

There is an anti-discrimination law in the Labour Code, at the federal level since 2004. The 1993 Police Security Act requires the police to refrain from any actions that could create the impression of bias or that could be perceived as discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Vienna state has had its Youth Protection Law since 2002, and one city, Bludenz, has adopted a symbolic non-discrimination declaration which includes sexual orientation in 1998. The Federal Constitution theoretically protects all citizens equally but the reality is that it does not apply to sexual orientation.

However, with Ireland and Hungary also planning to introduce registered partnership models on a federal level, Austria is soon to provide a registered partnership as well [1].

Gay rights and political debatesEdit

The first major parliamentary debates on that issue took place in the mid-1990s, initiated by the Liberal Forum LIF which was campaigning strongly against discrimination of homosexuals which at that time existed through §209, 220 and 221 StGB and for complete equality of treatment also including marriage and adoption. The Social Democrats and the Green Party at that time showed support for the issue of equal treatment of same-sex couples.

After the LIF did not pass the four percent electoral threshold in the 1999 elections, the Social Democrats and the Green Party started to embrace this issue more. The SPÖ on its biannual Federal Party Convention made a decision on the issue of equal treatment of same-sex couples. They proposed a model of registered partnership ("Eingetragene Partnerschaft") including step-parent adoption. The Austrian Green Party introduced the civil pact ("Zivilpakt") as somewhat similar model to that of the Social Democrats in 2004.

However, progress is visible to a limited extend. Since 1998, Austria recognizes the right not to testify against their partner if the partner is of the same sex, as amended in Criminal Code. In 2001, the constitutional court rescinded §209 StGB which lead to the introduction of § 207b was introduced as a substitute by the coalition of the conservative ÖVP and the right wing FPÖ and is seen as being discriminating in a more indirect way than § 209 StGB. Following the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in case of Karner v Austria [2003], cohabiting same-sex partners are entitled to the same rights as unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners. In 2005, the Green Party campaigned heavily for registered partnership during the Vienna election campaign in 2005. In 2006, the first legal same-sex marriage came into existence, when a transsexual woman was permitted by the constitutional court to change his legal gender to female while remaining married to his wife. See Same-sex marriage in Austria.

The coalition of Conservatives and Social Democrats formed in 2007 is not likely to result in major steps towards more equality anytime soon. Although the new Minister of Justice, Maria Berger, a social democrat, intends to improve the situation she herself expects huge opposition by the conservative coalition partner ÖVP[2], most likely because her situation is now similar to that of her predecessor Karin Gastinger who failed on the same issue. Furthermore, Maria Fekter, chairperson of the parliamentary committee for judiciary repeatedly announced that as long as she is chairperson and the ÖVP is in government, conservative values will prevail (see p282)].

Gay life in the countryEdit

The gay scene is developed in all major cities such as Vienna, Linz, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Graz. A European Union poll surveying Austrians, showed their support for gay marriage at 49% [3].

See also Edit

Outside ReadingEdit

Percy, William A. Austria. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. Dynes, Wayne R. (ed.), Garland Publishing, 1990. pp. 97-99

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