The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, in German] on Tuesday ruled [judgment, in German] that same-sex couples in a civil union can legally adopt [press release, in German] the non-biological children of their partners. The challenge to the existing adoption rules [AP report] was brought by a woman who was denied permission to adopt a Bulgarian girl previously adopted by the woman's same-sex partner. The court held the existing rules to be a violation of equality principles and ordered the legislature to amend the law by June 2014. Previously a same-sex partner in a civil union could only adopt the biological children of his or her partner. Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger [official profile] was present for the ruling, branding the judgment as a historic step [press release, in German] that provides legal certainty for the children of same-sex couples.
Germany has recognized same-sex civil unions since 2001, but there are still certain rights that they do not share with heterosexual married couples. In August the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples in a civil union [JURIST report] should receive the same tax benefits as heterosexual married couples with regard to land transfer tax, further noting that the decision should apply retroactively. That ruling came during the same month that 13 members of the country's ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) [party website, in German] called for same-sex couples to be granted joint-filing tax benefits. In August 2010 the land transfer tax was amended to allow the same benefits [JURIST report] as heterosexual couples for same-sex couples in case of a divorce. In June of the same year an administrative court in Berlin held [JURIST report] that a same-sex marriage performed abroad must be recognized in a registered partnership in Germany.