Friday, 31 March 2017

Case against Austria, concerning where couples could marry or form a registered partnership, struck out

The complaint in Hörmann and Others v Austria has been struck out by the Fourth Section of the European Court of Human Rights.

The applicants in the case, two same-sex couples, complained under Article 14 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 8 that they were discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation because registered partnerships (which are open exclusively to same-sex couples) had to be concluded before and within the premises of the District Administrative Authority, whereas civil marriages (which are not open to same-sex couples) were concluded before the Office for Matters of Personal Status.

In January 2017, the Austrian Government informed the Court that, with effect from 1 April 2017, there would be no difference in the place where registered partnerships and marriages could be formed - the Office for Matters of Personal Status becoming the competent authority for both. The Government stated that it had eliminated the reason for the applicants’ complaints and requested that the Court strike the case out in accordance with Article 37 § 1 of the Convention.

In response, the applicants informed the Court that they still considered themselves to be victims of the alleged violation of their rights, as the Government had not expressly acknowledged the alleged violations of the Convention and had not afforded any redress for the discrimination suffered.

However, the Court considered that the matter complained of had been resolved within the meaning of Article 37 § 1(b) of the Convention and that respect for human rights as defined in the Convention and its Protocols did not require it to continue the examination of the case.

The applicants had each claimed 50,000 Euro in non-pecuniary damage, and sums in the range of tens of thousands of Euros to cover legal expenses. The Court cannot award damages if a case is struck out of the list, but it can make an award in respect of costs of the Convention proceedings. In this respect, the Court awarded each of the four applicants a small amount of money (750 Euro) each in respect of costs and expenses.

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