Same-sex couples win rights
A German law providing a range of partnership rights to
same-sex couples was scheduled to take effect Aug. 1 after a
July 18 court ruling upheld it. The measure permits same-sex
couples to register their relationships.
The German Constitutional Court rejected a move by the
states of Bavaria and Saxony to block the law, clearing the
way for it to take effect.
Reactionary Christian Democrats in Bavaria had called the
law "the greatest attack on the institution of marriage in
decades." But last Nov. 10, when the lower house of
Parliament passed the law, Manfred Bruns of the German
Lesbian and Gay Association called it "a historical day for
lesbians and gays in Germany."
Same-sex couples now will be able to make their
relationships official in all state registry offices. Under
the partnership law, couples can share a common surname, and
have spousal-type rights in areas including inheritance,
health insurance, child custody and alimony.
Germany still maintains some tax discrimination against
same-sex couples. Also, same-sex partners are still legally
barred from adopting children.
Several European countries have granted various rights to
same-sex relationships. In only one country, the Netherlands,
same-sex couples can be legally married.
In the United States, only Vermont has implemented a law
providing substantive partnership rights to same-sex couples.
However, since President Bill Clinton signed the 1996
"Defense of Marriage" Act banning federal recognition of
same-sex relationships, couples registered under Vermont's
law face further battles when they try to actually claim
Still, the advances toward winning equality for same-sex
relationships, internationally and in the United States, are
extremely significant--especially considering that the modern
movement for lesbian, gay, bi and trans liberation only began
in 1969. None of these legal developments would have been
possible without the movement that has pressed for change.
The extension of partnership rights in Germany, which will
cover foreigners as well as German nationals, is the latest
but not the last in a series of hard-won victories.
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