Germany’s top court said on June 6 that gay couples are entitled to the same tax benefits as married heterosexuals in a ruling which threatens to deepen rifts within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives just three months before an election.
The verdict requires a change in the law and is a red rag to a bull to some in Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and its traditionally Catholic Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), who worry that conservative values are being diluted.
The ruling was widely expected after the court in February overturned a ban on same-sex couples adopting a child already adopted by one of the partners.
“The provisions set out in the income-tax law violate the general rule of equality,” wrote the Karlsruhe-based court, adding the law should be changed retroactively from Aug. 2001.
Same-sex partnerships have been legal in Germany since 2001 but do not enjoy the same tax benefits as married heterosexuals.
Gay rights have become a flashpoint in several countries. When France became the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage in May, conservatives and Catholics took to the streets.
Merkel, keen to avoid a pre-election showdown with the CDU and CSU’s right wing which is losing patience with her centrist policies, has not come down on one side or the other in public.