Over the weekend, Irish voters overwhelmingly voiced their support for legalizing gay marriage in their country with 62.1 percent voting in favor of the referendum. It was a historic moment all throughout Europe and now key German political leaders are looking to put extra pressure on Angela Merkel to further Germany’s own stance on LGBT rights.
One of the most vocal politicians, Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt, publicly told Merkel “It’s time” in an interview with Die Welt. “The Merkel faction cannot just sit out the debate on marriage for all…I am confident that the Irish vote will accelerate equality in Germany.”
Even within Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which is known to carry a more conservative stance on the issue of LGBT rights, has had some supporters for full marriage equality. The party’s first openly gay politician Jens Spahn told Welt Daily, “What the Catholic Irish can do, we can do, too … The populace is often further along in these matters than we think”.
Germany has had an up and down history when it comes to LGBT rights, going back to the 1890’s when the first official organization advocating for gay rights, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, was founded in Berlin by Magnus Hirschfeld.
Hirschfeld campaigned to repeal a paragraph in the German Criminal Code that made homosexual acts a crime. Numerous attempts, and the backing of prominent German figures such as Albert Einstein and Herman Hesse, led to a parliamentary decision to strip the crime from the code in 1929. However, this came at the same time that the Nazi party rose to power, which effectively stopped the change from being implemented.
For a period of time between the end of the First World War and Nazi rule in Germany, Berlin became the international center for the LGBT scene. In the 1920’s, 30 of the 32 homosexual-focused newspapers in the world came from Germany and before the coining of the term ‘homosexual’ came about, the Italians referred to gay people as “Berlinese” and the French used the term “German Vice”.
After the end of the Second World War it took some time for Germany to once again show support for LGBT individuals and couples. The first big advancement came when the line of code that Hirschfeld originally helped repeal in 1929 officially came off the books in 1994.
Germany continued to become more accepting, including the resurgence of a lively gay scene in Berlin, but while same-sex civil partnerships were approved back in 2001, gay couples do not share all of the same rights as straight couples, including the ability to adopt.
With the added pressure stemming from Ireland’s vote, overnight change isn’t expected in Germany, but it may fight the fire that is needed to being the issue back to the forefront.
Sources: DW, RT, The Local
Photos: Kurt Löwenstein Education Center [Flickr] (modified), LGBT History Month