Germany’s highest court says gay couples are entitled to the same tax benefits as married heterosexuals in a ruling which threatens to deepen rifts within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives just three months before an election.

Last August, Chancellor Merkel rejected calls for gay couples to receive the same tax breaks enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

Several members of her Christian Democrats (CDU) stated that the party should have moved forward with granting equal tax rights.

But the proposals were officially dropped at last December’s CDU conference.

On Thursday, Germany’s Constitutional Court declared the current tax differences as discriminatory for same-sex couples.

Gay Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, of the Free Democrats (FDP), said the ruling showed the time had come “for German tax law to be as modern as its society”.

CDU Family Minister Kristina Schroeder welcomed the ruling and said the law would be changed.

In February, the Constitutional Court ruled that one member of a civil partnership should be able to adopt their partner’s stepchild or adopted child, and the German Government said it would change the law in 2014.