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Lesbian couple with baby
Image: imago/Westend61

Germany plans equal rights for lesbian co-mothers

August 21, 2020

A baby born into a lesbian family will have two mothers, and neither will be required to apply to adopt the child, according to a proposed reform. But that won't be the case for kids in families with two fathers.

https://p.dw.com/p/3hJzB

A German parentage law package close to being submitted to cabinet would give a child born into a lesbian setting two mums, the biological mother and her female partner, German media reported on Friday.

In a brief quote posted on her ministry's website, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said the focus must be on the child's wellbeing, including those among adults in same-sex relationships.

Describing German society as needing law that reflected diversity, including "patchwork families," Lambrecht said children were best nurtured in uncomplicated settings.

"The law must respond to these diverse forms of family life," she said.

Read more: German Carnival group won't make lesbians couple of 2020

Groundwork for reform

On August 6, Lambrecht told the German Catholic KNA news agency that lesbian couples should "in future be able to have another woman as a mother in addition to the mother of birth, without having to go through an elaborate adoption procedure." 

However, opposition Free Democrat (FDP) lawmaker Katrin Helling-Plahr accused Lambrecht of bowing to feminists and diluting an expert panel's recommendations drafted since last year.

The reform had shrunk to being a pure show-window "Reförmchen" — a German diminutive word for marginalized reform — asserted Helling-Plahr.

Read more: European court rules lesbian woman has no right to paternity leave

Adoption procedure to remain for male-male couples

In her interview with KNA, Lambrecht had argued that the second man alongside a biological father would still have to apply to adopt the child via commonly used German family court procedures.

Paragraph 1591 of Germany's civil law code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB) would continue to state: "[The] mother of a child is the woman who gave birth to it."

"We want to adhere to the principle that the first parental place is reserved for the biological mother who gave birth to the child. Her presence is a basic requirement. Therefore, for male couples the only option left is [still] adoption," said Lambrecht.

Her ministerial predecessor, current European Parliament Vice President Katarina Barley, had also sought family law reform using the phrase "co-mother" for settings of lesbian couples with children.

'Consternation' among family law advisers

Germany's Legal Tribune Online reported on August 10: "The planned reform of parental custody law from the BMJV [justice and consumer ministry] has caused consternation among family law experts." 

"Contrary to the recommendations of a high-profile working group, there will still be no automatic parental custody for unmarried fathers," exclaimed the LTO.  

It noted that eight family law experts had spent a-year-and-a-half advising the federal Justice Ministry on parental custody law, last amended extensively in 1998, to fit changed living situations of many families now experienced.

Same-sex marriage in force

ipj/rt (KNA, dpa)

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