John M. Becker

German High Court Grants Tax Equality to Gay Couples

Filed By John M. Becker | June 06, 2013 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Angela Merkel, civil partnerships, gay marriage, Germany, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, taxes

germany_gay_flag.pngIn a significant blow to anti-gay German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, Germany's highest court ruled today that same-sex couples are entitled to the same tax benefits as married opposite-sex couples.

The Federal Constitutional Court in the south German city of Karlsruhe ruled that treating opposite-sex marriages and same-sex civil partnerships differently under German tax law violated the constitution, and ordered that tax law be changed retroactively to the date in 2001 that Germany instituted civil partnerships. 

Der Spiegel reports:

The move had significant political support. All parties in the parliament, with the exception of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), had recently called for such equal treatment.

Reuters added that the CDU and CSU worry that "conservative values are being diluted."

Guido Westerwelle, an openly gay German politician and former Vice Chancellor of Germany, hailed the ruling, saying that it was time "for German tax law to be as modern as its society."

However, German society is not quite as modern as Mr. Westerwelle's quote suggests -- the country does not currently allow same-sex couples to marry, granting them only "civil partnerships" instead. With France passing marriage equality last month and the United Kingdom poised to do so, Germany's stubborn refusal to end marriage discrimination is leaving it increasingly isolated among major European powers.

This is also not the first time that the Federal Constitutional Court has had to nudge Merkel's reluctant government forward on matters of LGBT equality: in February it ordered parliament to craft new legislation allowing one member of a civil partnership the right to adopt their partner's biological or adopted child; previously they were only allowed to adopt a partner's biological child. The court also ruled almost one year ago that forbidding same-sex couples from having the same property transfer benefits as opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional.

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