Another European country has paved the way for same-sex couples to enter into legally recognized unions. Hungary's left-leaning parliament this week approved the Registered Partnership Act, which will beginning January 2009 provide lesbian and gay couples with almost identical rights as married heterosexual couples in common law.
Uniquely, both gay and straight couples will be able to register their partnerships under the new law, which guarantees among other rights, joint tax filing, next of kin status, decision making in health care, as well protections to assure inheritance, social security and pensions rights.
Not allowed under the new Hungarian law regarding partnership is the right to adopt, access to fertility treatment and the right to take their partner's surname.
The Registered Partnership Act was passed with votes of the members of the Socialist-led social-liberal government. Meanwhile Hungary's opposition conservative parties are said to have refused to back the new law, which they regard as a "hidden attempt" to legalize gay marriage, according to a GayNZ.com news report.
Despite the shortcomings of the law, Hungarian gay and lesbian associations cheered the new law hailing it as a milestone in the fight gay and lesbian rights.
Government statistics show that there were an estimated 349,000 unmarried couples in Hungary in 2005, 12.2% of all families, compared to 62,000 in 1970, 2.1% of all families.
Western European members of the EU all recognize same-sex relationships. Only the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain allow same-sex marriage. Britain has civil partnerships with all of the rights of marriage. The other states have varying forms of civil unions or domestic partner registries.
In Eastern Europe, Czech Republic and Slovenia have limited same-sex partner registries.