German court: Gay couples get inheritance equality

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.

—  John Wright

Erin go gay

20557 Rainbow Shamrock

As we Americans once again try to get over the pain of another loss in the gay marriage battle (the New York Senate defeated a marriage bill there this week that had already been passed in the Assembly and that the governor was waiting anxiously to sign into law), word comes from across the Big Pond that lawmakers in Ireland this week opened debate on a bill to grant marriage-style rights to same-sex couples there.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said today that the Civil Partnerships Bill would give same-sex couples the same rights as married straight couples in matters of inheritance, medical care and medical decisions and access to state benefits. The bill would also allow one partner to demand financial support from the other in the event of a break up.

There are some lawmakers in the ruling Fianna Fail party who are expected to oppose the Civil Partnerships Bill, but strong support in the opposition parties is expected to insure the measure’s passage sometime this month.

That’s really something when you consider that the Roman Catholic Church — which has been a major force in managing to slap down marriage equality here in the States — is a strong presence in Ireland, not to mention that homosexuality was a criminal offense on the Emerald Isle until 1993.
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