A judgement from Germany's Federal Constitutional Court favoring equality in income tax rights for same-sex couples will soon become law. But as DW'S Jens Thurau asks, why has it taken this long?
DW's Jens Thurau
"Historic decision for homosexuals" and "Karlsruhe blames the coalition" - such are the headlines of Friday, 7 June. But is it still such a surprise when Germany's constitutional court in Karlsruhe corrects the government's policy on gay and lesbian equality? More than once in the last ten years, the court has done just that - on issues such as inheritance law or the rights of children of homosexual parents, on adoption, and now, on complicated income tax improvements for couples in civil unions. And, as always, the legal grounds are similar: Whoever assumes the same obligations as in a marriage, whoever promises to stand behind their homosexual partner, receives the same legal rights as a man and woman. Full stop.
But that was exactly what a majority of CDU and CSU parliamentarians (of the ruling center-right Christian Democratic Party and its Bavarian sister-party, the Christian Social Union) didn't want to acknowledge. When the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party decided in 2001 to grant civil partnerships to gay and lesbian couples, they met with fierce resistance from conservatives. Ever since the CDU returned to power in 2005, they've allowed themselves to be spurred into action by Germany's highest court - even now. In the coming weeks, the government intends to pass a law that would give Germany's gays and lesbians equal tax rights. A large majority of the CDU/CSU faction decided to do so - even if, at a CDU party conference last year, they strongly rejected just that.
Behind it all, and beyond fears of contact with the apparently threatening world of homosexuals, is a worry for the survival of the traditional marriage. That's unfounded. Just 34,000 same-sex civil partnerships have been registered since 2001, while yearly, ten times as many men and women say "I do." Marriage between a man and woman will remain central in German society. If gays and lesbians receive those same rights, it's little more than: fair and just.
Were traditional marriage to be threatened, then through an increasingly individualized society. Through lifestyles that place things at center stage that have little do with a life together with just one partner and the raising of children. And through a CDU and CSU policy that, for a long time, has failed to recognize that women today want both: professional success and children. The best policy to protect marriage would be to build more day care centers, to do more to make family life and employment compatible, to grant tax incentives to families who have children. That protects marriage better than a dull fear of homosexuals. And it's also better to deal with something politically oneself than to be challenged to do so by the Federal Constitutional Court.