News (World)

A small European country just made big news by legalizing same-sex marriage

View from drone of stone Gutenberg Castle on top of green hill on background with small town of Balzers, Liechtenstein
A view of Balzers, Liechtenstein Photo: Shutterstock

The parliament of Liechtenstein just passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making it the 22nd country to do so among Europe’s 37 nations. The bill goes into effect at the start of 2025.

The country’s parliament, known as the Landtag, voted nearly unanimously in favor of the historic bill, as 24 of its 25 members supported it, the Liechetensteiner Vaterland reported.

In a congratulatory social media post, the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations wrote, “Just in time for [the May 17th International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia], the LI Parliament approved same-sex marriage in its final reading today – an important step for equal rights of LGBTIQ+ people in Liechtenstein! [rainbow emoji] #MarriageEquality #HumanRightsForAll.”

Wedged between Austria and Switzerland, Liechtenstein is Europe’s fourth-smallest country, measuring just 62 square miles with a population of 39,790. It has offered registered partnerships for same-sex couples since 2011. The new law will allow these partnerships to become marriages through a simple administrative process.

The modern-day history of same-sex marriage in Liechtenstein

In November 2001, Landtag member Paul Vogt submitted a proposal to allow same-sex couples to enter into registered partnerships. However, because neither Austria nor Switzerland had legal recognition of same-sex couples at the time, the Landtag rejected the proposal in May 2003.

The Landtag finally approved a proposal to pursue a registered partnership law in October 2007, after Switzerland passed a similar law. The bill was formally introduced in December 2009, endorsed by the country’s Prince Alois in August 2010, and approved unanimously by the Landtag in March 2011.

Soon after, a group called Vox Populi (“Voice of the People”) collected over the 1,000 signatures required to force a June 2011 voter referendum on the new law. Approximately 69% of referendum voters approved of the law, subsequently putting it into effect.

Only 43 same-sex partnerships have been registered in the country between 2011 and 2022, according to its Office of Statistics.

The Landtag revised its family name laws in 2016 to allow registered partners to legally take on their partner’s last name. In June 2021, the country’s highest court ruled that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. In May 2022, the Landtag passed a bill allowing same-sex partners to adopt stepchildren; it went into effect in June 2023.

In 2018, a same-sex couple, Lukas Oehri and Dario Kleeb, sued the country after one of its civil registry offices denied them a marriage license. The men’s lawsuit said the denial violated the country’s constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

While an administrative court ruled in the men’s favor, an appellate state court overturned the decision in September 2019. The issue arose in the run-up to the country’s February 2021 parliamentary elections, with over 80% of Landtag candidates saying they supported legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Landtag passed a motion to draft a same-sex marriage bill in September 2022. In protest, the Catholic Archbishop of Vaduz, Wolfgang Haas, canceled a Mass traditionally held during the Langtag’s opening session on New Year’s Day. Haas said that same-sex marriage “runs counter to natural sensibility, to natural law in accordance with reason and, in particular, to the Christian concept of the human being.”

Haas resigned in September 2023 and now refuses to speak with the media amid his retirement in a monastery.

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