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Homosexuality: Austria

Volume 485: debated on Thursday 18 December 2008

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will place in the Library a copy of the Government’s submission to the European Court of Human Rights on rights for same-sex couples in Austria; and if she will make a statement. (244160)

I have been asked to reply.

I have placed in the Library a copy of the submissions made by the United Kingdom in the case of Schalk and Kopf v. Austria.

The main purpose of the UK intervention in this case is to argue that the right to marry under Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights does not require marriage to be made available to same-sex couples. This remains the Government’s firmly held position.

A further argument in this case relies on Article 14 (the prohibition on discrimination in the protection of the Convention rights) read with Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life). These provisions have been held not to require states to provide formal legal status for same-sex relationships. The Government chose to introduce civil partnerships for reasons of social justice and equality, instead of being obliged to do so.

As my noble friend Lord Bach has noted, we have agreed to reconsider the technical aspect of the intervention on the meaning of “family life” and article 8, and will clarify our position with the Court on that point.