Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Demian, director   ||   206-935-1206   ||   ||   Seattle, WA

Table of Contents

Notable Events Legal Marriage Essays Legal Marriage Data Ceremonial Marriage Domestic Partnership
Legal Necessities Relationship Tips Immigration Couples Chronicles Parenting
Inspiration Orientation Basics Surveys Resource Lists Citation Information
Welcome (About) Your Host Copyright Policy Link Policies Search Site

Life Partnerships
The German Approach
© September 28, 2008, Demian

“Life Partnerships” were instituted in Germany on November 10, 2000. The German Parliament, the Bundestag, approved a bill establishing “Registered Life Partnerships” (Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft) for gay and lesbian couples with many of the benefits of legal marriage. It became effective on August 1, 2001.

Included in the new law:

  • May take the same surname
  • Share household insurance
  • Hospital visitation
  • Act as the next of kin in key medical decisions
  • Requirement of a court decision for divorce
  • Resident status to foreign partners in binational couples
  • Some parental rights regarding a partners’ biological children
  • Status identical to married couples in tenancy, inheritance (excluding inheritance taxes), pensions, and health insurance
  • Grants German resident status for a foreign partner
  • May adopt their partners biological children, but not allowed to adopt other children
  • Provision for one partner to collect support, after a divorce
  • Pension inheritance
Originally excluded, but now included in the Partnership law:
  • No right to adopt children, however, this has since been corrected to allow a partner’s already existing children to be adopted
  • Key financial provisions which would have ended discrimination in income and inheritance tax laws (Some of these have now been addressed)
  • Requirement to support an unemployed partner


Each federal state will decide where the registration takes place. Bavarian authorities, greatly displeased by the prospect of acknowledging same-sex couples, require that same-sex couples “tie the knot” at district council offices, which handle everyday business, such as vehicle registration.

The Federal Constitutional Court turned down pleas from the ultra-conservative regions of Bavaria and Saxony for an injunction to prevent the law from taking place while a suit is pending. The suit, brought by these regions as well as by Thuringia, had hoped to stop the new law. Even though filing the suit, the Bavarian state assembly finally approved the measure on October 25, 2001, and it took effect in that state on November 1, 2001.

On July 17, 2002, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany upheld the act. The Court unanimously found that the process leading to the law’s enactment was constitutional. The eight member Court further ruled, with three dissenting votes, that the substance of the law conforms to the constitution, and ruled that these partnerships could be granted equal rights to those given to married couples. This rejected the conservative argument that same-sex Life Partnerships violated constitutional provisions protecting marriage and the family.

In early May 2004, Germany expanded its civil union legislation to ensure the financial benefits received by same-sex couples are the same as opposite-sex couples. The country’s labor court ruled in the case of a male nurse filing for equal benefits. Now, location allowances and other financial issues will be equalized throughout the country’s civil service and governmental agencies. Additionally, the judges ruled there should be no difference between opposite-sex couples who wish to get married and same-sex couples who wish to sign a Partnership registration, further strengthening the law.

On October 22, 2004, the German parliament approved a bill expanding the rights of people in same-sex Life Partnerships to adopt children if a child was brought into the Partnership by either partner. The new law also allows same-sex couples to formally get engaged before a Life Patnership, and raises standards of financial security guaranteed to such couples for pensions.

Berlin’s Administrative Court ruled, on June 24 2005, that people united under Germany’s same-sex partnership law are entitled to each other’s pension when one of them dies. The court redefined the word “spouse” in pension benefit plans.

As of October 29, 2004, about 5,000 same-sex couples have joined in a “life partnership” in Germany. Some 8,000 children are already in such family structures.

As of July 2005, more than 6,000 same-sex couples registered.

By September 2008, about 15,000 same-sex couples registered.


Life Partnerships appear to open equal immigration rights to same-sex couples. The foreign partner of a German national or resident can apply for a “long-stay visa” at a German consulate in their country, showing their partner’s sponsorship and the intention of registering their partnership after arriving in Germany. Foreign partners already in Germany — as temporary residents or visitors — can change their status to “permanent resident” once the partnership is registered.

If the sponsor is a German citizen or permanent resident, their partner has a legal right to a residence permit. If the sponsor is a citizen of another European Union country working in Germany with a temporary “EU residence permit,” granting residence to the partner remains discretionary.

All sponsoring partners need to show that he or she is:

  • Financially able to support both partners
  • Not receiving social assistance

Not a Model for Family Recognition in U.S.

This domestic partnership status does not work as a model for America, because implementing an equivalent legal status to marriage requires duplicating 150-to-350 laws in each state, and more than 1,138 laws on the federal level. [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.] The whole idea is completely impractical.

Further, domestic partnerships are usually not recognized outside of the issuing state. Because of the lack of portability, they create a patchwork legal status as a couple moves or vacations.

While such contracts are an attempt to create equal treatment, they only reinforce a separate and totally unequal status, one we consider to be a manifestation of apartheid. [See Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    United States (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
    Germany (2017)
    Taiwan (2017)
    Malta (2017)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

Return to: Partners: Table of Contents