Vienna - The Austrian government agreed Tuesday to introduce a form of civil union for same-sex couples, which will grant some, but not all rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples, Justice Minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner announced.
The so-called registered partnerships are to give homosexual partners rights regarding social security claims, inheritance or court trials.
However, those who register will not be allowed to adopt children, and lesbian couples will not be able to have children through in-vitro fertilization.
The necessary amendments to several laws are scheduled to pass parliament before the end of the year, so that the new regulations can come into force from the start of 2010.
"We see this as a first step into the future," said Jona Solomon, a leader of the Vienna-based homosexual advocacy group HOSI Wien.
But she said her group would keep fighting for equal rights, not only in terms of family law, but also when it comes to the way that these partnerships are registered.
Unlike traditional marriages, which involve a ceremony by a civil registrar, gays and lesbians are granted no such right and will simply have their union recorded by local authorities.
Nine European countries have instituted such civil unions, while Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden allow same-sex marriages that are equal to heterosexual ones, according to HOSI Wien.(dpa)