Germany Expands Gay Adoption Rights, But Chancellor Merkel Is Behind The Times

angela-merkelOn Tuesday, Germany’s constitutional court ruled that gay individuals in a civil partnership may adopt children already adopted by their partners. The court determined that the current ban on “successive adoptions” violated gays and lesbians’ right to equal treatment under the law. (Biological children can already be adopted by same-sex spouses.)

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union government has until July 2014 to revise current adoption laws.

But while England and France have been busy working toward equal marriage for all, Germany has been accused of dragging its feet when it comes to the rights of same-sex couples.

Lawmaker Volker Beck of the opposition Greens said on Tuesday the government was failing in its responsibilities by leaving the constitutional court to tackle issues of gay equality on a case-by-case basis.

“The federal constitutional court has already said in many other cases in the past that there can be no differentiation made between marriage and civil partnerships when there are no good grounds for it,” he told German radio.

While same-sex couples can enter into civil partnerships, those unions don’t enjoy the tax benefits that married heterosexuals do.

But the CDU avoided making any significant statement on the court’s decision: Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, simply stated that the government would study the ruling to decide how to best proceed. The CDU has also dodged taking a position on extending tax benefits to gay couples in civil partnerships, again leaving it to the courts. (A ruling on that issue is expected later this year.)

Conservative members of the CDU, like their Republican cousins in the States, want to reserve marriage (and its incumbent perks) for one man and one woman. “Others who feel less strongly are nonetheless worried that supporting the family rights of gays and lesbians would scare off their core voters,” writes Philipp Wittrock in Spiegel:

As recently as December, a majority of Christian Democrats voted against proposals to change joint tax filing laws for married couples to include tax breaks for same-sex partners. Chancellor Merkel herself has expressed her opposition to such changes.

“I personally want to preserve the privileged tax position of marriages because our constitution envisions marriage and family as being directly related and both are placed under the special protection of the institutional framework,” Merkel told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper in December. “At the same time I think it is correct for us to have provided the same rights in some areas to registered homosexual partnerships as marriage, like in inheritance taxes or in public services law.”

Anything else, she said, deserved a “respectful discussion.”

Right, but if the courts do rule for full marriage equality, how much to you want to bet Merkel will be there to take the credit?

Original photo: Armin Linnartz