Adoption rights for gay couples expanded in Germany

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Germany’s gay community saw another civil rights victory on February 19, when the country’s highest court ruled that a person in a civil partnership should be allowed to adopt their partner’s adopted child or stepchild. Previously, only adoption of a partner’s biological child was allowed. 

The court stated that the current ban on successive adoption denied gay people the right to equal treatment, and violated the rights of the children for whom only one parent was legally theirs. The government has until June 2014 to put new laws into place, but the lifting of the ban is effective immediately.

Same-sex couples have been able to register civil partnerships in Germany since 2001, but cannot formally marry, and its civil partnerships lack some of the rights of marriage. Although many other European countries have done so, most recently Britain and France, Germany has yet to take steps towards full marriage equality.

The ruling also doesn’t address the fact that same-sex couples in civil partnerships are still unable to adopt as a couple, a right currently reserved for the legally married.

“Just because we’re gay doesn’t mean we cannot have a family,” Mark Doyle, a representative of Lifelong Adoptions, an LGBT adoption service in the United States, told 429Magazine. “We’re just as normal as any heterosexual married couple.” 

Germany’s constitution states that “marriage and the family shall enjoy the special protection of the state,” and the court ruled that the provision can’t be used to prevent same-sex partners from adopting their partner’s child, regardless of the child’s origin.

Even as they celebrate, German gay rights groups are calling for adoption laws to be expanded one step further, allowing for gay couples in civil unions to adopt jointly. The court is also considering a separate case, regarding whether civil partners should be entitled to the same tax breaks that are granted to married couples.

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