German Court Gives Gay Couples Equal Inheritance Rights

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 17, 2010

The German Federal Constitutional Court, located in the city of Karlsruhe, has found that a statute that imposed higher inheritance taxes on gay couples than on straights for seven years was in violation of that nation's constitution, reported on Aug. 17.

Gay families in Germany are not allowed to marry, a legal barrier that was reconfirmed this past June when a court in Berlin ruled that a marriage granted to two men in Canada would only be recognized as a civil partnership in Germany. A German citizen, Andreas Boettcher, married his Spanish same-sex life partner in Montreal four years ago, but the German government persisted in viewing Boettcher as single, leading to a suit and the court's decision.

Civil partnerships for gay and lesbian families have been legal in Germany since 2001, reported on Aug. 17, but they do not carry the full catalogue of legal rights and protections that is enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. Until 2008, same-sex families were subjected to significantly higher rates of inheritance taxation. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the German government must pay back the difference to surviving gay and lesbian partners who paid more than heterosexuals would have during that seven-year period.

"While married couples were put in the most advantageous tax group I and regardless of the amount inherited had to pay between seven and 30 percent tax, life partners, as 'other beneficiaries' in tax group III, had to pay between 17 and 50 percent tax," noted the court.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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