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Constitutional Court rules for equal treatment of homosexual civil servants

In a victory for those fighting for same-sex partnerships to receive the same recognition as marriages, Germany's highest court has given registered partners of civil servants the right to a widow or widower's pension.

Now public employees can be sure their same-sex partners will be taken care of.

Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe found on Thursday that just as civil servants in a traditional marriage have a right to a widow's or widower's pension if the husband or wife dies, the surviving partner in a registered homosexual partnership is entitled to the same payments.

The Court ruled in favor of a civil servant from Hamburg who has been in an officially registered partnership since 2001 and was insured for supplementary benefits through a public insurer.

The man felt discriminated against when the insurer refused to place him in the tax class for married employees. Not being in this class meant that he was denied 74 euros ($111) a month for his pension and in the case of his death, his partner would have no right to a "widow's pension."

The Court found that the insurer's decision violated the man's constitutional right to equal treatment.

"It is not constitutionally justified to infer from the special protection of marriage that other partnerships must receive a different status from marriage with fewer rights," read the ruling.

Marriage enjoys special protection in Germany's constitution.

Court's decision a "breakthrough"

Proponents of equal rights for homosexuals hailed the ruling as a major step in the right direction.

"I see it as a very big step toward the equal treatment of same-sex marriages, not just for employee pensions, but also in many other areas," said the plaintiff's lawyer.

"Since registered partners must be responsible for each other in the same way that spouses are, they have to be treated with the same rights," explained the German Lesbian and Gay Federation, which described the ruling as a "breakthrough."

Editor: Michael Lawton

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