Gay and lesbian couples began marrying
on Tuesday in Austria as the nation became the latest European
country to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
According to the AP, the first couple
to marry was Nicole Kopaunik and Daniela Paier, who exchanged vows in
the town of Velden.
In 2017, Austria's Constitutional Court
ruled that laws prohibiting gay couples from marrying are
discriminatory and advised that gay couples be allowed to marry
starting in 2019, unless lawmakers acted sooner.
Austria, which is predominantly Roman
Catholic, has recognized the unions of gay couples with civil
partnerships since 2010.
“Today, the differentiation between
marriage and legally registered partnerships can no longer be upheld
without discriminating against same-sex couples,” the
court wrote. “For the separation into two legal institutions
implies that homosexual individuals are not equal to heterosexuals.”
With the addition of Austria, sixteen
European nations legally recognize and perform same-sex marriages,
including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland,
Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain,
Sweden and the United Kingdom. An additional 12 European countries
recognize such unions with some form of civil union.