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Court: gay and straight tax breaks must match

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Photo: DPA
11:02 CEST+02:00
Gay couples in civil partnerships must have the same tax breaks as married heterosexuals, Germany's top court says, telling the government that if action is not taken, it would intervene directly.

The Constitutional Court has given parliament until June 18 to come up with a law putting homosexual civil partnerships on an equal footing with married couples when buying property, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Currently married couples do not have to pay property purchase tax - which usually equates to around five percent of the buying price - if the buyer and seller are married. However, this rule does not extend to gay couples in registered civil partnerships - a status introduced back in 2010.

Last July, the court said that the government's failure to immediately grant gay couples the same tax breaks as married couples when civil partnership was introduced, was unconstitutional and demanded a change in the law by the end of the year.

The ruling coalition had moved to address the issue at the end of last year. But as the government was reluctant to give same-sex couples the same breaks on income tax, the initiative stalled in the Bundersrat upper house and failed to pass through a subsequent mediation committee.

Now, in a letter to Bundestag president Norbert Lammert, seen by the paper, Federal Constitutional Court vice president Ferdinand Kirchhof warned the court could intervene to enforce last years' ruling with a temporary law if parliament failed to initiate one by June 18.

This enforcement action by the court would be very unusual, wrote the paper, and has only been used 24 times in the court's history.

Meanwhile, the opposition has been highly critical of the government's failure to give same-sex couples the same financial advantages.

“[The coalition] is vehemently refusing to thoroughly implement the equal status for civil partnerships as for married couples as demanded by the constitutional court,” Volker Beck head of the Greens' parliamentary fraction told the paper.

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