Austria have just legalised same-sex marriage

Newlywed women show their rings

Image The existing law which judges say is discriminatory will be nullified on 31 December 2018

In a statement, it said "the distinction between marriage and civil partnership can no longer be maintained today without discriminating against same-sex couples", adding that keeping the two institutions separate suggests that "people with same-sex sexual orientation are not equal to people with heterosexual orientation". Nevertheless, our Dumb & Dumber-punchline sister country Austria - that's A-U-S-T-R-I-A - has just seen a landmark court ruling that will see the country gain marriage equality by no later than 2019.

"This decision opens up marriage and registered partnerships to all couples; it is a really positive and refreshingly inclusive judgment". " said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis, speaking after the verdict was announced".

Austria joined the ranks of countries recognizing a universal right to marriage when its highest court ruled Tuesday that barring same-sex couples from wedding was discriminatory. A translation of the ruling states the civil partnership "has become even closer to marriage", noting same-sex couples can jointly adopt children and access in-vitro fertilization and other forms of medically assisted reproduction.

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The move brings Austria into line with the likes of Ireland, Germany, France, the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland) and Spain.

"We are very happy", Homosexual Initiative Vienna Chairman Christian Hoegl told Reuters news agency.

As it now stands, same-sex couples in Austria had been allowed to enter civil partnerships for the last seven years.

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Helmut Graupner, a lawyer for the two women who brought the case, said that this is the first time that a European court has lifted a ban on same-sex marriage.

Both parties voted against same-sex marriage when it came before parliament earlier this year.

Same-sex marriage is legal in 25 countries.

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Austria is now the 16th European country to legalise same-sex unions.

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