Germany gives pension rights to gay civil partners
Germany’s high court today ruled that civil partners of government employees are eligible to receive the same pension rights as their straight married counterparts.
Germany’s high court strengthened the rights of gay couples on Thursday, ruling that government employees with registered civil unions are entitled to the same pension plans as married couples.
The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the country, heard the case of a Hamburg public servant who had been in his job since 1991.
The public-sector pension company VBL had refused to consider him in the same way as a married person, despite the fact he had been in a civil partnership for eight years.
Under VBL’s stance, he would have received €74 less each month than a heterosexual married man, while his partner would receive no surviving dependants’ pension if he died.
The court ruled today that VBL’s position was unconstitutional.
According to The Local, the unnamed man’s lawyer Dirk Siegfried said: “I see this as a very big step for the equality of homosexual marriage not only for employee pensions, but in many other areas too.”
In August, the same court confirmed that gay and lesbian people can adopt their partner’s children, overturning a previous court ruling.
It rejected the argument that to allow the female partner of a child’s mother to adopt would undermine the rights of the other biological parent.
A recent study revealed that 6,600 children in Germany are being raised by gay and lesbian parents.
However, gay or lesbian people or couples cannot adopt children they are not related to.
Social Democrat politicians, including Germany’s Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, have called for a change to the law.
Gay and lesbian couples can register their partnerships and their rights include most of those of marriage, including the possibility of stepchild adoption, but they are denied the same tax benefits.
A failure to give gay partners the same benefits infringes the basic right to equal treatment, the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said.
The decision nullified an earlier ruling from the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) regarding a Hamburg man who has been a public servant since 1991 with a supplementary pension. The public-sector pension company VBL – the largest such company in the nation – refused to give the man married status, despite the fact that he’d been living in a registered civil union for eight years. This meant that his retirement benefits would be €74 less each month, and his partner would receive no surviving dependants’ pension in the event of his death.
But constitutional law forbids privileging one group above another, the court found. VBL is now required to adjust its benefits.
“I see this as a very big step for the equality of homosexual marriage not only for employee pensions, but in many other areas too,” the Hamburg man’s lawyer Dirk Siegfried said.
Openly gay Green party MP Volker Beck called the decision a “conclusive breakthrough.”
The legal protection of marriage and family can no longer be used to discriminate against homosexual couples, Beck added, calling the ruling a “clear defeat for the conservative ideologists” in among Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.
He also encouraged the German government to give homosexual couples equal treatment in tax law.