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German Law

Merkel's Christian Democrats accept verdict on tax break for gay couples

The chancellor's party has voted in favor of a draft bill that would extend married tax rights to same-sex partners. The move is a forced one, following a Constitutional Court ruling saying that the government must act.

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's parliamentary group voted overwhelmingly in favor of sending draft legislation through parliament before September's elections, with the aim of extending taxation rights to same-sex couples.

Christian Democrats support same-sex ruling

Members of the CDU/CSU sister parties - the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Bavaria's Christian Social Union (CSU) - met for a special sitting on Friday to approve the measure. Only three lawmakers voted against the bill, one abstained.

The bill is scheduled to be sent to the Cabinet on Wednesday. The first reading of the bill is planned for next Friday, and then the final reading during the last week of June.

Under the current law, heterosexual couples have the option of filing taxes jointly, thereby splitting the tax burden equally. As a result, couples may determine their tax bracket by dividing their total earnings in half and then pay an equal tax rate on each sum.

Germany's Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled on Thursday that this tax law must extend to same-sex civil unions because there were no "objective reasons for unequal treatment [of same sex-couples]."

The federal court ordered that the new taxation law be applied retroactively dating back to August 2001.

Stance on gay couples unchanged

While the country's parliamentary groups have supported equal recognition of same-sex partnerships, only Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc has remained opposed to viewing homosexual unions as equal to heterosexual unions.

The CDU's parliamentary chairman, Volker Kauder, said on Friday that the support for revising tax laws did not signal a change of the party line on homosexual unions.

"Today, I emphasized that gay marriage does not exist in our eyes…There's marriage and there are same-sex partnerships. And that's how it will stay as far as we're concerned," Kauder said.

Changing marriage laws would affect children, making the decision more complicated than a simple adjustment of taxation laws for adults, Kauder added.

Earlier this year, the constitutional court granted gay parents "extended adoption" rights, meaning that if one partner has already adopted a child, the other may become an adoptive parent of the same child as well.

Germany institutionalized same-sex partnerships in 2001, but it does not allow same-sex marriages.

kms/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa, epd)

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