BERLIN, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Germany's constitutional court
handed same-sex couples a victory on Tuesday by ruling that gay
people should be allowed to adopt a child already adopted by
The court said an existing ban on the practice - known as
successive adoption - violated the principle of equal treatment
of people regardless of their sexual orientation.
It said the status quo also harmed the rights of the
"The exclusion of successive adoption by registered partners
violates the general principle of equality," said the court,
based in Karlsruhe in southwest Germany.
The government has until July 2014 to amend the law to
incorporate the ruling, which applies to gay people in civil
Under German law, a gay person can already adopt the
biological children of his or her registered partner.
In Germany homosexuals can form civil partnerships but are
not allowed to marry. The law already allows a married person to
adopt a partner's adopted children.
Opposition parties and gay activists accuse Chancellor
Angela Merkel's centre-right government of dragging its feet on
equality for gay couples. Civil partnerships are denied the tax
privileges accorded to married couples.
Lawmaker Volker Beck of the opposition Greens said on
Tuesday the government was failing in its responsibilities by
leaving the constitutional court to tackle issues of gay
equality on a case-by-case basis.
"The federal constitutional court has already said in many
other cases in the past that there can be no differentiation
made between marriage and civil partnerships when there are no
good grounds for it," he told German radio.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert told a briefing on
Tuesday the government would study the ruling to decide how best
to proceed in amending the law. "The wellbeing of the children
will always be the benchmark for the government," he said.
Two lawmakers from the liberal Free Democrats, Merkel's
junior coalition partner, welcomed the ruling.
"Gay men and lesbians make just as good parents as
heterosexual men and women. Thousands of children are growing up
already in 'rainbow' families," said Stephan Thomae and Michael
Kauch in a joint statement.
In a separate case, an Austrian lesbian couple who want to
jointly raise one partner's biological child won their case at
the European Court for Human Rights, which ruled on Tuesday that
Austria's adoption laws discriminated against gay people on that
(Reporting by Gareth Jones; Editing by Pravin Char)