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Germany's upper chamber in pre-vacation frenzy

On the final day before its recess, Germany's Bundesrat upper parliamentary chamber has passed a flurry of bills. Same-sex couples can celebrate a win in tax equality, but cyclists with the wrong lights got bad news.

Friday marked the final legislative day for Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, before it adjourned for its summer recess, and the representatives did their best to work through the agenda.

Nearly 40 bills were passed by the Berlin-based Bundesrat, which represents Germany's 16 regional and city states or Laender.

One bill that affects homosexual couples can now become law since it had already been approved by the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. The law gives same-sex couples equal right as heterosexual couples when it comes to tax rights and is retroactive to 2001. This is in line with a decision made in May by Germany's Constitutional Court based in Karlsruhe.

Germany does not recognize same-sex marriages, but the Bundesrat also passed a resolution that called for equal rights for homosexual couples in all other legal areas. The governing coalition in the Bundestag of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and their partners, the Free Democrats, does not want to extend the rights of gay couples that far.

Another law passed by the upper chamber clears the way for a fresh start to an issue that has been a thorn in Germany's side for 35 years: the search for a permanent nuclear waste storage facility.

Until recently, German authorities had favored a temporary site near the town of Gorleben in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, despite decades of protest by residents and anti-nuclear activists. The criteria for a new search – with the geology of the entire country up for consideration – are to be established by 2015.

Bundesrat favors dual citizenship

Children of parents with two different nationalities would be affected by a draft bill proposed by the Bundesrat on Friday. As it currently stands, a child with German citizenship and citizenship of another country has to choose one nationality by the time he or she is 23 years old. Under current law, failure to choose means losing the German passport.

The Bundesrat's proposal would end the practice of having to pick just one, clearing the way for dual citizenship for some people. The bill passed the Bundesrat due in large part to the fact that the Social Democrats and the Greens Party have the majority. In the Bundestag, those two parties are in the opposition against the Merkel's Christian Democrats, who generally opposes dual-citizenship.

German cyclists are likely to be disappointed at the delay in a new law that would affect regulations on bike lights. Currently, a bicycle in Germany must have lights powered by a dynamo generator in order to be considered street legal. Battery-operated lights – which are often much brighter than dynamo-powered lights – are not up to regulation.

A vote on the law, which would have made the brighter battery-operated lights an acceptable alternative, has been put off until a later date by the Bundesrat.

mz/ipj (dpa, AFP)