German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
German High Court Grants Tax Benefit to Gay Couples

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com August 09 2012 10:14 AM ET

The highest court in Germany ruled Wednesday that same-sex couples in registered partnerships must be entitled to the same exemption from the land transfer tax as married straight couples, but a larger debate about taxes and other legal rights continues.

Deutsche Welle reports on the ruling about the exemption, which removes the tax liability when one member of a divorced couple buys a piece of previously jointly-owned real estate from the other. Two men who divorced in 2009 had asked the court to backdate an exemption, and the judges agreed, finding that the difference in tax treatment before 2010 was unconstitutional. Refunds are now expected for a large number of former couples.

Registered partnerships instituted in 2001 offer a legal status that approximates, but does not equal, marriage. Gay couples lack the same rights in income tax and adoption. The court currently has cases pending about the different treatment in income taxes, CNN reports.

Officials in Germany are debating taxation for same-sex couples overall, where 13 members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, which traditionally opposes tax equality, recently called for an expansion of tax rights. Members of the Christian Social Union, however, greeted the idea with “vicious criticism,” according to CNN. The third governing partner, the Liberal Democrats, supports tax equality. Their former leader, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, is in a registered partnership with his partner, Michael Mronz.

Meanwhile Volker Beck, parliamentary leader of the Green Party, wants Germany to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, reports Deutsche Welle.