The Hungarian Government has approved a new bill on registered partnerships.

It replaces a previous law on registered partnership that was struck down by the Constitutional Court in December, just weeks before its was due to come into force.

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.

In December the Hungarian Constitutional Court ruled that the law on registered partnership adopted by the Hungarian Parliament a year earlier was unconstitutional.

The Constitutional Court is responsible for protecting the Constitution, reviewing the constitutionality of legislation and protecting fundamental constitutional rights.

The Registered Partnership Act gave both gay and straight 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.

The Court found that creating an institution similar to marriage for both same sex and different sex couples duplicates the institution of marriage for different sex couples, and thus contradicts the special protection of marriage enshrined in the Constitution.

The Court also ruled that same-sex couples have the right to an institution similar to marriage.

Government statistics show that there were an estimated 349,000 unmarried couples in Hungary in 2005, 12.2 per cent of all families, compared to 62,000 in 1970, 2.1 per cent of all families.

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.

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.

Although the Government fully supports the new bill, its adoption by the Parliament is still an open question.

Hungary currently has a minority government after the liberals left the government coalition early last year.

Conservative opposition parties heavily criticised the previous bill on the account that it introduced same sex marriage under a different name.

It is yet to be seen whether their position has changed as a result of the Constitutional Court declaring such an institution a constitutional right.