Austria's justice minister on Friday proposed the establishment of "national partnerships" for homosexuals, a bold move in this predominantly Roman Catholic country that has yet to legally recognize same-sex unions. Justice Minister Karin Gastinger, a member of the center-right Alliance for the Future of Austria, told the Austria Press Agency in an interview that gay and lesbian couples would be able to sign an agreement in the presence of a notary.
Although the partnerships would fall short of gay marriages, they would give homosexual couples the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples under Austrian law, Gastinger said. If a couple were to split, the partners could discuss possible alimony arrangements, she said. Gays and lesbians also would be treated the same in applying current laws dealing with rental property and medical decisions under Gastinger's plan.
It was unclear whether Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's conservative Austrian People's Party, which shares power with the Alliance for the Future of Austria in a coalition government, would support the proposal. The People's Party has expressed reluctance in the past to giving same-sex couples more rights, as have some officials in Gastinger's Alliance.
Austria, Ireland and Italy are the only core members of the European Union that do not allow some variant of a civil union for gays and lesbians, Gastinger said. "I can't stand in the way of European development," she said, reports the AP. N.U.