By AFP-Posted Wednesday, August 8 2012 at 18:02-A row erupted in the German government on Wednesday over calls for gay couples who have registered their partnerships to be put on the same tax footing as married couples.
The economy and justice ministers are in favour of changes to the law to allow registered partnerships of same-sex couples, introduced in Germany in 2001, the same tax benefits as married ones.
Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Philipp Roesler believes there are "very clear signs that an equal footing is also called for in the field of tax law", his spokesman told a government news conference.
Both he and Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger are members of the pro-business Free Democrats, a junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's fractious centre-right coalition.
Amid heightened pressure for Germany, as Europe's strongest economy, to provide leadership out of the eurozone's debt crisis, the coalition has struggled to bridge differences.
However Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble directly contradicted his colleagues in cabinet Wednesday, with his spokeswoman noting that marriage enjoyed special protection under Germany's Basic Law.
She said Schaeuble, unlike other members of the government, currently saw no need for a speedy tax reform and would await a decision on the issue by the country's top court, due by next year, a spokeswoman told reporters.
Deputy government spokesman Georg Streiter also highlighted to reporters the need to wait for the Federal Constitutional Court's ruling "in order to then get it right".
On Tuesday, Family Minister Kristina Schroeder had welcomed in a German newspaper a push for a swift revision to the law by 13 deputies from Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), touching off a debate in Berlin.
Couples in lesbian and gay partnerships assumed a long-term responsibility and thus lived according to "conservative values", she told the centre-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung paper.
Both Schroeder and Schaeuble are part of Merkel's CDU, whose Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, also a coalition partner, strongly opposes the move.
According to estimates, state coffers would reap about 30 million euros ($37 million) less if formally registered gay couples could also enjoy certain tax benefits applied to married ones.
Some 23,000 same-sex partnerships are currently registered in Germany, according to federal figures cited by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung.