Christine Dhanagom


Activist group seeks legal protections for homosexuals in Austria

Christine Dhanagom

AUSTRIA, April 5, 2011 ( - The Austrian Constitutional Court rejected a case last week that sought to extend the country’s anti-discrimination laws to protect homosexuals.

Rechtskomitee Lambda (RKL), an Austrian homosexual interest group, asked the court to overturn the legal protections for racial and religious minorities found in Criminal Code Article 283, “Incitement to Hatred,” and in the Federal Equal Treatment Act, on the grounds that these protections were themselves discriminatory since they did not include homosexuals among the protected groups.

The lawsuit was launched last year after legislative efforts to extend the protections found in the criminal code and the Equal Protection Act to homosexuals failed in the Austrian Parliament.

In a recent statement, the group listed instances of alleged discrimination against the eight applicants in an attempt to prove the need for legal protection for homosexuals in the country.

Examples included the refusal of an apartment lease to homosexual couple Lou Hampala and Claudia Tondl, and refusal of services at a bed and breakfast to Dietmar Zechner and his homosexual partner.

The statement also claimed that homosexuals are among the “prime target groups of national-socialist terror.”

The court, however, found the applicants’ request inadmissible on the grounds that the lack of protection for homosexuals lacked “dangerous close range and long range effects.”

“Hatemongers are still allowed to incite to hatred against lesbians and gays, and now even with the consent of the Constitutional Court,” said RKL president Helmut Graupner.

The group has pledged to take its case to the European Court of Human Rights, which has a mixed record on handling such appeals.

In 2002, an Austrian statute that set the age of consent for homosexual sex at 18, four years later than the 14-year mark for heterosexual sex, was abolished after the European Court ruled that it violated the European Convention of Human Rights. Last year, however, the Court rejected a similar challenge to the country’s refusal to allow homosexual “marriage.”

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