High Court Ruling: Germany Grants Tax Equality to Gay Couples

Gay couples in Germany can enter into civil unions, but without certain rights afforded married couples. Zoom
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Gay couples in Germany can enter into civil unions, but without certain rights afforded married couples.

Gay and lesbian couples in civil unions should have the same joint tax filing rights as married heterosexual couples, Germany's highest court ruled Thursday, dealing a blow to Chancellor Merkel's conservatives.

Germany's top court ruled Thursday that civil partnerships, including those of same-sex couples, should have joint tax filing benefits equal to those of married opposite-sex couples.

The Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that the unequal treatment of marriages and civil partnerships regarding taxes was unconstitutional, and demanded that the law be changed retroactively to August 1, 2001, the date that Germany legalized civil unions. Until new regulations exist, the current provisions for joint filings of married couples can be applied to civil partnerships, according to the decision.

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.

While same-sex partners in Germany have been able to enter legal civil partnerships since 2001, it has been without all of the tax and adoption privileges available to married heterosexual couples. But since the high court judges in Karlsruhe strengthened adoption rights for some same-sex couples in February, the debate about gay and lesbian rights has been heated, and the decision to grant additional tax benefits was widely expected.

Criticism of Merkel

Patrick Döring, the general secretary of the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), the junior coalition partner party to the CDU and CSU, said in Berlin Thursday: "It is a tragedy that the CDU and CSU were not ready on their own for a change to the law."

Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association welcomed the court's decision, but also criticized Merkel's party. "Karlsruhe again had to tutor the federal government on constitutional law," a spokesman said in a statement. "The principle of equal treatment applies to all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation. The CDU/CSU-led government has so far denied this doctrine with all their resources."

Despite infighting on the issue in her party, Merkel had supported the official CDU position of opposing the joint tax filing benefits. The court decision has now provided her opponents an opportunity to criticize her position on gay rights in an election year.

Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary leader for the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), said Merkel's coalition was being pushed by the federal court. "The coalition discriminates against life partners -- people who support each other and assume responsibility for each other -- solely because they are the same gender."

Renate Künast, chairwoman of the environmentalist Greens' parliamentary group, called the decision a "slap in the face with a message" for the "dusty" view of society held by Merkel's government.

Some of Merkel's prominent cabinet members also voiced their support for the decision Thursday. The FDP's Philip Rösler, who is vice chancellor and economy minister, tweeted that the ruling sent a "strong signal for more tolerance."

Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, also from the FDP, said the decision marked a "breakthrough" in winning full equal treatment of civil partnerships and marriage.

Prompted to Act

Legislation backing the court ruling might be passed in the coming weeks, a CDU member of parliament told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "I expect that we will implement the ruling before the summer break," said Jan-Marco Luczak, a CDU representative from Berlin.

The issue of equal tax benefits for gay and lesbian couples has been ongoing in Germany. The Federal Constitutional Court gave the Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, a deadline of June 18 for passing a law that would give same-sex couples in civil partnerships the same property transfer tax benefits as married couples. The court ruled last July that unequal treatment on such benefits was unconstitutional.

-- mbw, with wires

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1. optional
foxchool 06/06/2013
Jolly good!
2. Irrelevant - But german people should know
grdedalos 06/06/2013
That was a very liberal decision, congratulation to the court for it! But my subject is different and has to do with the strengthening of Nazi and extreme right to eurozone and specially in greece. Merkel's best ally and closest goreign political friend is the greek prime minister antonis samaras. Samaras as a politician can be characterized as incapable and the last time he took a minister position, in 90s, he called for foreigner workers from ex soviet countries to come and work to greece (he was looking for cheap workers), but at the same time he lost control and that was the first massive illegal immigrant wave that came to greece. But don't take it wrong: what really describes samaras is his extreme right rhetoric and the support of golden dawn that he provides as a greek prime minister. Despite his deny the connection of samaras with very dark figures closely relate with the junta-military regime of 70s. He has put them in very central position in his party, he has it as parliament members, they are his counselors etc. But what is very disappointing and dangerous is that he put greek police and justice to protect golden dawn. The events are so many, almost daily, and so emetic that it is difficult to believe them. In the very beginning Dendias (the publ order minister) attacked the occupied from antifascist building that were protecting the immigrants from the lethal attacks of golden dawn(stubs, beatings etc). Then whenever an attack of golden dawn was happening police, was standing aside in order to protect them from the reactions of simple or antifascist people. Whenever one of the golden dawn is being arrest (don't think many, just a couple of them) the prosecutor takes care either to let them free till the court or to have the lightest prosecution. In the parliament, samaras was the one who stopped the antirascist legislation and said that the law already exist was enough (since 1979). He made the whole procedure so ridiculous that even golden dawn brought her antirascist law, focus it on the racism against the greeks, and one of their proposal was identical with samaras proposals a year ago!!!! I will not write much more, but the german voters must know that MERKEL STRONGLY SUPPORT THE GREEK EXTREME RIGHT-GOLDEN DAWN SUPPORTER SAMARAS. It is my opinion that this soon is going to turn against you too, plus the moral dimension of such an action. I think this is an important aspect that should be taken seriously
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