The European Court of Human Rights has ruled against a gay couple seeking to marry in Austria, the AP reported.

In a ruling handed down Thursday, the seven-judge panel ruled unanimously that countries are not obliged to allow gay marriage.

Horst Michael Schalk and Johann Franz Kopf challenged Austria's gay marriage ban, but the Strasbourg-based court rejected the couple's claim that their rights had been violated.

A new law dubbed “marriage light” by the media took effect on January 1. The law, which grants gay and lesbian couples many of the benefits and obligations of marriage, including pension rights and alimony payments in the event of a split, has been criticized by activists because the law forbids gay couples from adoption or artificial insemination.

The panel said there was “an emerging European consensus towards legal recognition of same-sex couples,” but refused to rule against nations that had not granted such rights.

It was the second setback in as many weeks for the gay marriage movement in liberal Europe.

A Berlin court has ruled that a gay couple's Canadian marriage will be recognized as a registered partnership in Germany. The union gives gay and lesbian couples most of the rights of marriage except joint adoption and full tax benefits.

Seven European countries – Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and most recently Iceland – have legalized gay marriage. Other countries, including Germany, Great Britain and France, recognized gay couples with alternative unions, such as registered partnerships.