The Associated Press has reported that Germany’s highest court bolstered gay couples’ adoption rights in a ruling Tuesday; Germany’s justice minister regarded the ruling as a historic step in the nation’s equal rights endeavor.
Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled that a member of a civil partnership should be permitted to adopt the partner’s adopted child or stepchild; before this ruling, prospective parents in a civil union could only adopt a partner’s biological child.
Germany has permitted same-sec couples to register civil partnerships—a union that legally falls short of a formal marriage—since 2001. Dissimilar to many other European nations, including the Netherlands, Spain and most recently, Great Britain and France, Germany has failed to move toward offering full gay marriage.
The high court ruled on a challenge to the existing regulations from a woman who was prohibited permission to adopt a Bulgarian child whom her partner had adopted. The high court requested that the government construct new legislation by June of 2014.
The German court ruled that the constitutional provision claiming “marriage and the family shall enjoy the protection of the state,” cannot be applied to justify banning same-sex partners from adopting the other partner’s adopted child.
Presiding judge Ferdinand Kirchhof claimed, “in marriage as in a civil partnership, the act of adoption provides the child in the same manner with material advantages in terms of support, care and inheritance law.”
Though the judgment means that same-sex couples can adopt the same child on an individual basis, gay couples are still not permitted to adopt children together as a couple.
In a separate legal matter, the court is considering whether gay partnerships should be granted the same tax breaks as given to married couples; it is currently unclear as to when a decision will be made on this issue.
In response to the court’s ruling, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger claimed, “Today’s decision marks a historic movement to put homosexual families in Germany on a secure legal footing. Full adoption is the next step.”
The Justice Minister is a member of the Free Democrats—the socially liberal partner in Chancellor Merkel’s coalition. That said several members of Merkel’s conservative Union bloc are more skeptical with regards to gay marriage and adoption.
In a separate court decision on Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against Austria’s decision deny a homosexual woman the right to adopt her partner’s son. Under Australian law, granting the woman the right to adopt the boy would have terminated his mother’s parental rights. Tuesday’s ruling acknowledged that European law concerning same-sex couple adoptions is in flux, but affirmed that Austria had discriminated against the lesbian couple.