Weird News

German parliament approves plans to relax strict restrictions on family names

BERLIN — (AP) — The German parliament on Friday approved plans to relax strict restrictions on family names — clearing the way, among other things, for couples to take double-barreled surnames and pass them on to their children.

The reform of Germany's rigid rules is due to take effect at the beginning of May 2025 after passing parliament's upper house, which represents the country's 16 state governments.

As it stands, parents are required to give their children one of their surnames. One partner in a married couple — but not both — can add the other partner’s name to his or her surname.

The reform will allow both partners to take on a double surname, with or without a hyphen, and for their children to take that name too. Parents will also be allowed to give their children a double-barreled surname. The new system still won’t allow names that are more than double-barreled.

The legislation will also make it easier for stepchildren or children of divorced parents to change their family names, and allow the use of gender-adjusted forms of surnames for people with names from languages in which that is common — a change that will, for example, benefit the Sorbs, an indigenous Slavic minority in parts of eastern Germany. It will also allow the use of traditional patronymic and matronymic names used by the Frisian minority, which entail children’s surnames being based on their father’s or mother’s first name.

The change is one of several social reform projects that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal three-party governing coalition promised to enact when it took office in December 2021.

Several higher-profile plans already have been implemented or approved. The government has legalized the possession of limited amounts of cannabis; eased the rules on gaining German citizenship and ended restrictions on holding dual citizenship; and ended a ban on doctors "advertising" abortion services.

It also is making it easier for transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to change their name and gender in official records. Same-sex marriage was already legalized in 2017.

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