Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Separate and unequal? Same-sex couples in Austria challenge "sexual apartheid"

The European Court of Human Rights has communicated the complaints in Hörmann and Moser v Austria and Dietz and Suttasom v Austria. The applicants are two same-sex couples who wish to formalise their relationships. According to Austrian law, the applicants are entitled to enter into a registered partnership but not entitle to marry.

The applicants wish to marry, but the basis of their complaint to the Court does not focus on this issue. Rather, their complaint relates to the fact that the current law in force in Austria requires marriage to be contracted by the Office for Matters of Personal Status, whereas a registered partnership must be contracted by the District Administrative Authority. The applicants argue that "in their view it amounted to sexual apartheid that registered partnerships could not be concluded before the same authority as civil marriages are".

The applicants complain under Article 14 read in conjunction with Article 8 of the Convention that they are discriminated on grounds of their sexual orientation, because registered partnerships are concluded before the District Administrative Authorities, while civil marriage is contracted before the Office for Matters of Personal Status.

The Court has communicated the following two questions to the parties:

1. Have the applicants suffered discrimination on the ground of their sexual orientation, contrary to Article 14 of the Convention read in conjunction with Article 8, because registered partnerships are concluded before the District Administrative Authorities, while civil marriage is contracted before the Office for Matters of Personal Status?

2. Have the applicants in the meantime concluded a registered partnership? If so, when and where?



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