Germany considering income tax equality for gays

Registered homosexual partners should be granted an income tax break similar to that enjoyed by heterosexual married couples, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger told the Muenchner Merkur newspaper.

The government should not wait for the constitutional court to decide the matter, she said. "From the rulings up to now, the court's direction is clear," she said.

Germany's highest court this week ruled that gay partners are entitled to the same inheritance tax privileges as heterosexual spouses. A decision on income tax rules is pending.

It is a touchy political issue in Germany as the constitution spells out that "marriage and family are under the special protection of the state."

Registered homosexual partnerships have been possible in Germany since 2001, but legally fall short of marriage. As opposed to gay partners, heterosexual married couples can reduce their tax burden by filing jointly, thus paying less than single taxpayers.

While Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger's liberal Free Democratic Party is pushing for changes, her more conservative coalition partners, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, are more hesitant.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said her party also wants to allow registered gay couples to adopt children, but added that this reform will likely not happen before the next general election planned for 2013.

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