P.B. and J.S. v. Austria |2010

Same-sex couple win discrimination case over health insurance refusal

The prohibition of discrimination . . . also applies to those additional rights . . . for which the State has voluntarily decided to provide.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, July 2010


P.B. and J.S. are a same-sex couple. J.S. works as a civil servant. For health and accident cover, he is insured as part of a civil service scheme. 

In 1997, P.B. asked the civil service insurance body to recognise him as a dependent, meaning that he was financially supported by his partner, and to extend J.S.’s insurance cover to include him. 

The body refused P.B.’s request for support, saying that it had to be dismissed because the couple were of the same sex.

P.B. complained about his treatment to the Austrian courts. He believed that the exclusion of same-sex couples from the extension of insurance cover was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

In 2001, a court dismissed P.B.’s complaint. It ruled that the authorities had correctly applied the law by concluding that same-sex couples were excluded from the insurance scheme. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Austria had unfairly discriminated against P.B. and J.S. until June 2007, when the law on insurance cover was changed to remove an explicit reference to opposite-sex couples.

The court awarded P.B. and J.S. jointly €10,000 in compensation.


By the time of the European court’s judgment in P.B. and J.S.’s case, Austria had changed the law on civil service health insurance cover so that it no longer distinguished between same-sex and opposite-sex couples. These changes entered into force in July 2007.