Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has voted overwhelmingly in favor of tax equality for same-sex unions. A ruling by the country's top court in favor of gay couples had forced the parliamentary vote.
The legislation, proposed by the center-right coalition government, was able to pass only with the support of the opposition late on Thursday. At least 15 members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) voted against tax equality for gay couples.
"I wish that my colleagues would have voted in lock step for the draft legislation," Stefan Kaufmann, a homosexual member of the CDU, told the news agency AFP. Kaufmann said he was "irritated" by the votes of some of his party colleagues.
Both the center-left Social Democrats and Greens had presented their own draft proposals, which would have made homosexual partnerships fully equal with heterosexual marriages. But their initiatives ultimately did not find the requisite support in the Bundestag.
The leader of the Greens parliamentary group, Volker Beck, ridiculed the CDU and its Bavarian counterpart - the Christian Social Union (CSU) - for not supporting full equality for homosexual couples.
"We are in the 21st century, even if you have not noticed it," Beck said.
The Bundestag vote allows Germany's 34,000 same-sex unions to have the same tax benefits as heterosexual marriages. The legislation is also retroactive, paying out tax relief to same-sex couples from August 1, 2001 until the present at an estimated cost of 150 million euros ($195 million).
Although the CDU has been traditionally opposed to granting gay and straight couples the same rights, a May 7 ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe forced the issue. The court ruled that it was unconstitutional to deny tax equality for same-sex unions.
The legislation still has to pass Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat. Approval there is considered all but assured.
slk/ipj (AFP, dpa, KNA)