An Act of History: Federal President Fischer Awarded Grand Decoration to RKL-President Graupner
12 June 2017
First time Head of State decoration in Austrian history for LGBTI-activism
Celebrating 25 years of Rechtskomitee LAMBDA (RKL), Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer, has awarded the Golden Medal of Honor for Merits in the Interests of the Republic of Austria to RKL-president Dr. Helmut Graupner. This is the first time in history that an Austrian head of state honors merits against discrimination and for equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons by a state decoration.
The Golden Medal of Honor for Merits in the Interests of the Republic of Austria (which resembles a Knight´s Cross of 1class) awarded by Federal President Fischer in 2016 has been handed over in May 2017, thus 15 years after the end of criminalisation. Graupner back then (2002), by proceedings in the Austrian Constitutional Court, brought down the last homophobic criminal offence, infamous Art. 209 of the Criminal Code, and thereby, once and for all, liberated homo- and bisexuals from criminal persecution.
Dr. Helmut Graupner is a co-founder of Rechtskomitee LAMBDA (RKL), Austria´s LGBTI civil rights organisation, and has been serving as RKL´s president since its foundation in 1991. By litigation in Austrian and European courts he has overthrown the discriminatory age of consent for gay-male-relations, the bans on step-parent and joint adoption for same-gender couples as well as the ban on medically assisted procreation for same-gender couples, and the divorce requirement and the genital-surgery requirement for change of legal gender. By litigation and political lobbying he has achieved to bring down the differences between civil marriage and registered partnership from around 100 in the government bill (2009) to current 29, open the wedding-halls for the conclusion of regsitered partnerships of same-sex couples, and even to completely equalize the legal status of opposite-gender and same-gender parenthood. For Germany he has brought about equality in pension rights for civil marriage and registered partnership by litigation in the Court of Justice of the European Union (Maruko 2008; Römer 2011). Since 2015 he has been leading the Austrian campaign for marriage-equality: Ehe Gleich!, which, having raised over 50.000 signatures so far, has turned out as one of the most successful citizens initiatives in Austrian history.
Former Federal President Fischer, on the occasion of the presentation of the decoration, thanked Graupner and his team "for the long-standing, cumbersome but overall very successfull work in, and also far beyond, Rechtskomitee Lambda". Graupner emphasized that the work will not be done with the achievement of legal equality, as rights have to be implemented into everyday-life and, above all, be defended against attempted backlash.