German court: Gay couples get inheritance equality

Posted on 18 Aug 2010 at 10:25am

Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany’s highest court ruled Tuesday, Aug. 17 that gay couples in civil partnerships are entitled to benefit from the same favorable inheritance tax rules as married heterosexual couples.

The Federal Constitutional Court decided in favor of two homosexual plaintiffs who had each lost their partner and contested rules under which they had to pay inheritance tax as if they were distant relatives of the deceased.

The court found that there is no reason to discriminate against people in registered homosexual partnerships. Such unions have been possible in Germany since 2001 but legally fall short of marriage.

At present, a spouse pays an inheritance tax of between 7 and 30 percent on inheritances in excess of 560,000 euros ($718,000), but homosexual partners have to pay between 17 and 50 percent.

The court said that granting legally registered homosexual partnerships tax equality does not interfere with the government’s constitutional duty to protect and support marriage and family. The government must present legislation to end the discrepancy by the end of the year, it said.

“This is a good day for homosexuals in Germany,” said Volker Beck, a leading lawmaker from the opposition Greens who is openly gay.

A draft law already produced by the government aims to iron out the inheritance tax difference, but the supreme court went even further and demanded that the legislation be retroactive — applying to all cases that came up since civil partnerships were introduced in 2001.

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