Germany's highest court has given the go-ahead to a law permitting gay couples to contract a marriage-like form of partnership. The Constitutional Court today rejected a move by two conservative states to block the legislation, which allows for legally-recognised union of homosexual couples.

The governments of Bavaria and Saxony had objected to the legislation, brought in by Germany's ruling coalition, on the grounds that it violated the constitutionally-protected institutions of the family and marriage. In their ruling, the judges of the court in Karlsruhe held that the law did not undermine the family or alter its legal basis.

The ruling means that the law, which allows gay couples to register their relationship with the relevant authorities and enjoy certain rights as a result, will go into effect on 1 August. However, the judges added that they still had to rule on the constitutionality of the legislation itself.

The Constitutional Court judges observed that they had to be extremely careful before ordering, on the basis of an injunction, that a piece of legislation could not go into effect, because this would constitute "a considerable interference in the freedom of action of the legislature."