Gay Rights Government to Expedite Same-Sex Tax Law
On Thursday, Germany's high court ruled that tax benefits available to heterosexual married couples must be extended to gay pairs as well. Merkel's conservatives say they will quickly comply. But the party is still opposed to additional rights for same-sex unions.
Thursday's high court ruling in Germany that gay couples living in civil partnerships must be granted the same tax benefits as heterosexual married couples hardly came as a surprise. Court President Andreas Vosskuhle had hinted strongly in February that such a ruling was coming.
The timing of the ruling, however, has left Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives scrambling to quickly pass a civil partnership tax law before the summer parliamentary recess, which begins in a month. On Friday morning, conservative lawmakers in Berlin agreed to introduce a bill as early as next week.
The court demanded that joint filing benefits be extended to gay couples retroactively to the year 2001. Given that all opposition parties in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, are in favor of increased rights for same-sex couples living in civil partnerships, the law's passage is likely to be a mere formality.
But within Merkel's governing coalition -- made up of her Christian Democrats (CDU), their more conservative Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) -- a debate has once again erupted as to whether the government should go even further and grant same-sex couples all privileges currently granted opposite-sex couples. And it is a debate which could attract unwanted attention to Merkel's conservatives ahead of the general election this fall.
The fronts are clear. The CSU is opposed to taking any steps beyond that required by the court ruling. "At issue is only what the German Constitutional Court has decided, but no further steps," CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt told the daily Augsburger Allgemeine on Friday. "There is absolutely no reason to go beyond the ruling and, for example, grant adoption rights to civil partnerships."
There are many within the CDU who see things differently. In February, when the court expanded adoption rights for same-sex couples -- though stopped short of granting civil partnerships the same ability to adopt as opposite sex couples -- many in the CDU argued that the party should not merely sit back and wait for the court to lead the way on the issue.
But on Friday, conservative floor leader Volker Kauder said that his party remained opposed to granting same-sex couples full adoption rights. He said that he had received loud applause in Friday morning's meeting of conservative lawmakers when he said: "There is no homosexual marriage for us. There is marriage and there are same-sex partnerships."
The FDP, however, are in marked disagreement. The party is in favor of immediately granting same-sex couples all rights available to opposite-sex couples. "My model is: Wherever the law now speaks of marriage, we should simply add civil partnership as well," Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a senior FDP member, said to the Passauer Neuen Presse. "And that also means adoption rights, without a doubt."
cgh -- with wire reports