German lawmakers Friday expanded the rights of same-sex couples, allowing registered domestic partners to adopt the other's child and bringing rules on splitting up and alimony in line with those for heterosexual marriages. Parliament's lower house passed the changes drafted by Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder's center-left government over the objections of opposition conservatives. "This is a good day for gays and lesbians," Greens lawmaker Volker Beck told his colleagues. "We are making another step on the long road to equal rights."
The new law stops short of giving gays and lesbians who are legally recognized as couples under Germany's domestic-partnership law full rights to adopt children. But if one of the partners has a child or brings one into the partnership, the other partner now can legally adopt the child if neither parent objects. Before registering their partnership, gay couples will be able to get engaged as heterosexuals do, a step that grants certain legal rights in Germany, such as the right not to testify against one's partner in court. Laws on separation, divorce, alimony, and division of assets are also being
extended to gay couples.
Although Germany does not permit gay marriage, about 5,000 gay couples have registered domestic partnerships in Germany under a law, pushed through by Schroeder's government, that took effect on August 1, 2001. Many in Germany's main opposition Christian Democratic bloc remain bitterly
opposed to increasingly granting gay couples the same rights as married heterosexuals. The opposition's main reason for voting against the changes was a fear that they opened the door to giving gay couples full adoption rights, Christian Democratic lawmaker Daniela Raab said Friday. The new adoption law "is an ideological aberration and shows a completely wrong understanding of values," said Christean Wagner, the justice minister of conservative-ruled Hesse state.