Austria has officially legalised same-sex marriage

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Same-sex couples in Austria could previously enter into a civil partnership.

In a landmark ruling, Austria's Constitutional Court on Tuesday made a decision to allow same-sex marriage by the beginning of 2019.

The court said that civil partnerships will remain an option after the law is changed, and will then also be open to straight couples.

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The distinction between a civil partnership and marriage can no longer be upheld without discriminating against same-sex couples, the court said.

They continued: 'Because the separation into two legal institutions expresses that people with same-sex sexual orientation are not the same people with different sexual orientation'.

Registered partnerships were introduced in the country in 2010, while step-child adoption and and full joint co-adoption were ordered in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

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This only became possible because of a complaint filed by a lesbian couple who were turned away by authorities in Vienna when they tried to get married. The restrictions on same-sex marriage will be lifted at the end of 2018 unless the government does so itself earlier, said the court ruling.

Under the court's ruling, registered partnerships will still exist but will be available to both same-sex and heterosexual couples.

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

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Austria is now the 26th country to recognise same-sex marriage and the third in 2017 after Malta and Germany voted in favour of the law in their parliaments. "We want to use the opportunity for a renewed call for a fundamental reform of marriage".

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