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German Constitution Court Backs Equal Tax Rights for Gay Couples

Germany’s highest court ruled that excluding same-sex couples from a tax benefit available for married partners is unconstitutional and said the government must retroactively change the 12-year-old legislation.

The tax law dating from 2001 must be amended as it violates the constitution’s equality rules, the Karlsruhe-based court said today in a statement on its website. Same-sex “civil unions” must be eligible for the tax benefits immediately until new legislation is in place, it said.

“Today’s decision is another forceful step and the breakthrough for equal treatment of the civil union and marriage,” Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said in an e-mailed statement. “Now legislators must act. Civil unions must no longer be discriminated against in any way.’

Members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union-led bloc have spoken out against granting gay couples equal tax rights. While Germany legalized same-sex partnerships as civil unions in 2001, it doesn’t allow same-sex marriages.

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