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Germany gets first out lesbian cabinet minister

In low-key fashion, Germany’s new Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks came out recently in a newspaper interview, making her the country’s first openly lesbian cabinet member.

Hendricks, a member of the Social Democrats for 20 years, mentioned in an interview with the Rheinische Post that she would “be spending New Year’s Eve with my life partner.”

A Catholic, the 62-year-old has been in the Bundestag, Germany’s Parliament, for 19 years.

As well as being the first openly gay female cabinet minister, she is the first in the new “grand coalition,” led by third-term Chancellor Angela Merkel.

During 2013, Chancellor Merkel angered LGBT campaigners with her slowness to back equal-tax arrangements for same-sex couples and her continued refusal to support marriage equality.

A February 2013 poll found 74 percent of the German people supported same-sex marriage.

Former foreign minister Guido Westerwelle became Germany’s first openly gay cabinet minister in October 2009.

Gays with children receive tax benefits in Israel

Despite a heated, ongoing debate around the issue, the tax authority in Israel has instructed that same-sex couples with children should begin receiving tax benefits immediately.

A bill to extend tax benefits to same-sex couples who have children has only passed a preliminary hearing in the Knesset, but the Israel Tax Authority issued the instruction this week.

The bill passed its preliminary reading Dec. 25, but it has yet to receive a second and third reading.

During a heated debate on the issue, supporters were forced into a staunch defense of its principles.

According to the law, women receive tax benefits for all children, but men are only entitled to the benefits until the child reaches 3.

The passage of the bill generated conflict between the Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi parties, the latter of which vetoed the bill earlier this year after it objected to language in the bill.

In a deal created Dec. 24, the two parties agreed to pass the bill in its preliminary reading and work out the details during the committee process.

Same-sex marriages are recognized in Israel, but must be conducted overseas. Israel does not currently allow same-sex or interfaith unions to be conducted domestically as only Jewish, Christian, Muslim or Druze religious authorities can perform the ceremonies, and none offer marriage to same-sex or interfaith couples.

— compiled by Larry Nichols


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