Austria has seen its first ever same-sex wedding, just five minutes after marriage equality became law.
Lesbian couple Nicole Kopaunik and Daniela Paier tied the knot at 12:05am on January 1 in the southern town of Velden, according to ORF, more than a year after the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex marriage would be legal from 2019.
The pair, who come from Altenberg an der Rax in the Upper Mürztal, are both 37 and had been engaged for four years.
Lesbian brides celebrate first same-sex wedding in Austria
Before the law change, queer couples in Austria could only enter into a registered partnership, which provided them with fewer rights than married partners.
Nicole Kopaunik said: “Now, everyone has the chance to decide for themselves if they want a ‘marriage for all’ or if they want a registered partnership.
“We are a family, and will have a family name.”
— Daniela Kopaunik
“That was not the case before. We decided to marry and are happy about it.”
Her bride, Daniela, is adopting Kopaunik’s surname. She explained: “We are a family, and will have a family name.”
The Kopauniks’ wedding became the first of its kind in Austria with the help of local authorities like Velden Mayor Ferdinand Vouk, who said the town was “used to accepting challenges.”
“It was a great pleasure and honour for us that Nicole and Daniela got married here,” said Vouk.
“The ceremony went fine, so now we have a happily married couple here in Velden.”
The celebrant, Klaus Gottwald, said the occasion was special, explaining: “Although I have a routine, this was a bit exciting.
“There were a few small obstacles, such as the line, ‘lawfully wedded husband,’ which was not beneficial.”
He said he had had to practise conducting a wedding for two brides beforehand.
After Austria, where else is same-sex marriage legal in Europe?
Marriage equality has been passed into law in 16 European countries, while another 12 offer some form of civil union to queer couples.
In more than a dozen countries—including most former Soviet nations—marriage is strictly defined as being between and man and a woman.
However, the Czech Republic may be the first former Eastern Bloc country to buck this trend.
In June 2018, the country’s government passed a vote to legalise same-sex marriage, and a vote in the Czech parliament is expected to take place some time in January.
If the country adopts marriage equality, it will reflect the public mood, with a poll released in April 2018 finding that 75 percent of people believe same-sex couples should be able to marry, with just 19 percent opposed.