Germany has long been taking incremental steps toward full legal equality between gay and heterosexual couples. Now, the country's family minister has come out in favor of extending existing tax benefits to those in a civil union, saying it is consistent with conservative values because gay couples take "lasting responsibility" for one another.
A majority of Germans are in favor of establishing legal parity between civil unions and heterosexual marriage. So too are most of the parties represented in the German parliament. But when it comes to finally granting gay couples the same tax advantages associated with marriage, Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and, in particular, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have been adamantly opposed.
That, though, may now be changing. On Monday, a group of 13 CDU lawmakers released a statement demanding that the German parliament take the initiative in granting gay couples in a civil union the same joint-filing tax benefits enjoyed by married couples.
Monday evening, the group received powerful support. German Family Minister Kristina Schröder told the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that the push comes "at the right time, because in lesbian and gay life partnerships, people take lasting responsibility for one another and thus they live according to conservative values."
Monday's statement is not the first time that German parliamentarians have made a motion to eliminate the tax policy disadvantages facing civil unions relative to heterosexual married couples. Several political parties, primarily from the center-left but also including the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP), Merkel's junior coalition partners, have in recent years come out in favor of eliminating tax policy discrepancies between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Such motions have largely failed to gain momentum due to opposition within the ranks of Merkel's conservatives.