Hungarian Constitutional Court forces backward step for civil unions law

by on February 13, 2009  •  In Family law

In December, Hungary's highest court struck down that country's civil union law not because it recognized gay couples, but because it "demeaned" marriage by allowing straight couples to partake of an alternative. Now Pink News reports that the government has drafted a bill to replace the law that was struck down.  The new legislation would restrict a civil union-like status to same-sex couples, and create a new but less significant status for all couples.

The court's ruling cut off the best policy option: to definitively de-link the civil legal status from the religious ceremonial status. It implied the same view often voiced by American conservatives, which is that an even more important goal than keeping same-sex couples from marrying is to keep heterosexual couples from having any other viable option. It could well be the final irony in this long debate: it will be easier politically to have the same status for everyone by opening marriage to same-sex couples than by opening civil unions to straight couples. 

Meanwhile, in Hungary:

The new bill introduces the institution of registered partnership only for same sex couples and a scheme of domestic partnership registration for both same sex and different sex couples. Support for the bill in the Parliament is still an open question.

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány instructed the Minister of Justice and Law Enforcement to prepare a new bill on registered partnership taking into account the opinion of the Court. After consultations with various LGBT organisations, the Ministry prepared a new bill that has been approved by the Government yesterday.

The new bill retains much of the content of the previous bill with one exception: the institution of registered partnership would only be available to same-sex couples. Establishment and dissolution of registered partnerships would be the same as for marriage, and registered partners would be entitled to most of the rights available for married couples [the right to register their partnership and protections regarding next of kin status, taxation, health care, inheritance, social security, pensions and shared possession of a home]. Notable exceptions are the right to take the partners' name and the right to adopt children.

Besides introducing registered partnerships for same-sex couples, the bill would also introduce a new scheme for registering domestic partnerships. Unlike registered partnership, this new opportunity would not grant any new rights or duties to couples cohabiting without marriage, but would only make it easier for them to prove the existence of such a relationship. This second registration scheme would be available to both same sex and different sex couples.


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