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social sciences

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Documenting the persecution of gay men and lesbians during World War II has proved difficult. Labeled "anti-social" and forced to wear a black triangle, lesbians are not easily identifiable in records from this period. Gay men were identified by the pink triangle, but they too were almost entirely erased from history. The fact that homosexuality remained illegal in Austria until 1971 made it extremely difficult for survivors publicly to discuss their persecution or to press for reparations.

Gay Liberation and Its Legacy

As in many European countries, the 1970s saw a resurgence of gay and lesbian activism and community building. The lifting of sodomy laws in 1971 reflected the increasing visibility of the homosexual emancipation movement that had been active since the 1968 student protests that reverberated throughout Europe.

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In the same year that Austria decriminalized homosexuality, however, it passed a ban against homosexual organizations and positive publicity about homosexuality, codifying laws it had inherited from Nazi occupation. These laws, while largely unenforceable, had the effect of stifling the gay and lesbian movement.

In 1979, a group of Austrian gay activists, in defiance of the 1971 law, founded the Homosexuelle Initiative Wien (Homosexual Initiative Vienna, or HOSI), which has remained the strongest voice for gays and lesbians in national politics. It publishes the magazine Lambda-Nachrichten (Lambda-News).

In the mid-1980s, the Rosa Lila Tip (Pink Lavender Tip), a gay and lesbian resource center in Vienna, expanded into a comprehensive community center, the Rosa Lila Villa, and began offering more services to the community, including coming out groups and social support groups.

The activities of these organizations and other smaller groups have helped challenge in Austria and develop a thriving gay community, especially in the cities of Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck, and Linz.

In 1996, coinciding with the abolishment of the federal law that prohibited public displays of homosexuality, Austria held its first gay pride parade.

More recently, gay and lesbian activists have celebrated the overturning of section 209 of the penal code, which set the age of consent for sex between men at 18 but allowed lesbians and heterosexuals to have sex at the age of 14. In June 2002, the Austrian Supreme Court ruled that section 209 violated the Austrian constitution's "equality principle" and ordered the Parliament to revise the law by February 2003.

In April 2003, HOSI announced that the city of Vienna would begin to take steps to recognize gay and lesbian partnerships. Viewed primarily as a symbolic gesture, it was hoped that such recognition by the city could pave the way for gay marriage in Austria.

Further progress toward marriage equality was attained in December 2009, when Austria's Parliament passed legislation permitting homosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships. The legislation, which became effective January 1, 2010, provides many of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples, but denies access to artificial insemination and the right to adopt children.

The success of the legislation was hailed by Christian Hoegl, co-president of HOSI, as "a reward for two decades of lobbying."

Geoffrey W. Bateman

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social sciences >> Overview:  Budapest

The capital and largest city of Hungary, Budapest is also the hub of Hungarian gay and lesbian life and the center of the country's glbtq political rights movement.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century

The treatment of homosexuality in German and Austrian literature was largely negative until the eighteenth century, when the basis was laid for the development of a more positive attitude.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

With major periodic setbacks, over the last two centuries German-speaking authors have gradually developed a gay and lesbian positive literature.

social sciences >> Overview:  Germany

While Germany, until recently, never officially accepted or welcomed members of the glbtq community, German culture and homosexuality have a long and significant history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:  Prague

The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, Prague is the hub of the country's gay and lesbian life and the center of its glbtq political movement.

social sciences >> Overview:  Switzerland

Switzerland is a very cosmopolitan nation with a vibrant glbtq community, but it has lagged behind much of Europe, particularly the Nordic countries, when it comes to assuring equal rights.

social sciences >> Overview:  Vienna

The capital of Austria, Vienna is also the country's largest city, as well as its political, economic, and cultural center, and the undisputed hub of Austrian gay and lesbian life.

social sciences >> European Commission on Human Rights / European Court of Human Rights

The European Commission on Human Rights was the first international human rights organization to condemn homophobia; the European Court of Human Rights, which replaced the Commission, has also helped enforce glbtq rights.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

The founder of psychoanalysis and the discoverer of the unconscious, Sigmund Freud initiated a fundamental transformation in the self-understanding of Western men and women, including especially the role of sexuality.

social sciences >> Haider, Jörg

Right-wing Austrian politican Jörg Haider reinforced the stereotype of hypocritical politicians who privately enjoy the freedoms won by the glbtq movement while opposing equal rights.

literature >> Hall, Radclyffe

Radclyffe Hall, who lived her lesbianism openly and proudly, is best known for The Well of Loneliness, arguably the most important lesbian novel ever written.

social sciences >> Krafft-Ebing, Richard von

The carefully detailed case studies of nineteenth-century psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing shed light on the sexual habits of a wide spectrum of men and women.

social sciences >> Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German law prohibiting sex between men; strengthened by the Nazis, it was the statue under which homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.

social sciences >> Pink Triangle

Originally a mark of criminalization and persecution under the Nazis, the pink triangle was later reclaimed by gays both as a memorial and as a celebration of sexual identity.

social sciences >> Redl, Alfred

The fascinating story of Colonel Alfred Redl, an Austro-Hungarian Army Chief of Counterintelligence who was blackmailed into spying for Russia in the years before World War I, has had a significant legacy for homosexuals.

literature >> Weirauch, Anna Elisabet

Anna Elisabet Weirauch is best remembered for her three-volume lesbian novel Der Skorpion (The Scorpion) set during the Weimar Republic.


Brunner, Andreas, and Hannes Sulzenbacher, eds. Schwules Wien (Gay Vienna).Vienna: Promedia, 1998.

Hacker, Hanna. Frauen and Freundinnen: Studien zur "weiblichen Homosexualität" am Beispiel Österreich, 1870-1938 (Women and Female Friends: Studies in "Female Homosexuality" and the Example of Austria, 1870-1938). Weinheim-Baswel: Beltz, 1987.

Handl, Michael, et al. Homosexualität in Österreich (Homosexuality in Austria). Vienna: Junius, 1989.

Hauer, Gudrun, and Dieter Schmutzer, eds. Lambdalesebuch: Journalismus andersrum (Lambda-reader: Journalism the Other Way Round). Vienna: Regenbogen, 1996.

Plant, Richard. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1986.

Tatchell, Peter. Europe in the Pink: Lesbian and Gay Equality in the New Europe. London: GMP Publishers, 1992.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bateman, Geoffrey W.  
    Entry Title: Austria  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 10, 2009  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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