Austria's first legal civil unions held today in Vienna

Four gay couples were granted the first-ever civil unions in Austria, APA reported Monday.

Austria's parliament passed in December 2009 a legislation allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, a move hailed by proponents as a historic win for gay rights in the country.

Starting with the beginning of January this year, same-sex couples have many of the rights enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts, including access to a pension if one partner dies and alimony in the event of a split.

The new legislation formally bans the adoption of children or artificial insemination for same-sex couples. And, unlike straight couples, gay couples will not be able to record their unions at the civil registry office but with another authority instead.

All four couples have been together for a long time, one of the couples being together for 50 years.

"It was an exciting and touching moment for me too", declared Beatrix Hornschall who held the ceremonies.

The ceremonies took place today in Vienna privately, with no media attention.

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