Austria's highest court has declared invalid a ban on gay couples jointly adopting.

Gerhart Holzinger, president of the Austrian Constitutional Court, announced the decision on Wednesday.

There was “no factual justification for having different rules based on sexual orientation that rule out the adoption of children by those in a civil partnership,” the court is quoted as saying by the AFP.

Gay couples may enter a registered partnership in Austria, but only married couples were previously allowed to jointly adopt non-biological children. In 2013 gay couples won the right to step-child adoption, which allows a spouse to adopt the biological children of the other. The change came about through a legal challenge at the European Court for Human Rights.

Lawyers representing the plaintiff couples who challenged the ban called on Austria's government to extend marriage to gay couples.