Same Sex Marriage – After Ireland… Germany?

After the historic vote in Ireland to allow same sex marriage The Hook is investigating marriage equality debates in different countries. In a three-part series we will look at the issue in Germany, Australia and Italy, where the Irish vote has sparked wider public debate.

Fear is one of the main reasons why people are opposing the idea of same rights for gay marriages in Germany, say both pro gay rights online advocates Thorsten Pichler, who runs a gay rights Facebook page, and Christian Krieger, who started a petition for equality, after being asked separately.

“People are afraid of the unknown,” said Pichler, who wants to see a change of people’s behavior towards homosexuals. He is specifically referring to the rights of homosexual couples that want to get married.

“I wouldn’t want to marry second class,” explained Pichler, referring to the fact that gays can only enter a same-sex union (registered life partnership) in Germany which does not have the same legal standing as the marriage of a heterosexual couple.

Pichler set up a Facebook page in his free time that translates to “Yes to same sex marriage.” He explained that he created the page because he wants to live in a country where every person has the same rights.

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In Germany, even though there are many similarities between a same sex union and a traditional marriage, the legal rights for adoption highlight the major differences. It is more complicated for a homosexual couple to adopt a child together.

“The fact that they [the government] are making the adoption process more difficult for homosexuals is simply a form of discrimination,” said Pichler.

Last year, the German government introduced a bill allowing “successive adoption.” This means that one member of a same sex union can adopt a child that was already adopted by their partner. Homosexuals can reach the same end goal as heterosexual couples but they have to take many detours, said Pichler.

He also stressed that homosexuals, consequently, have to pay more money, since they are going through the main adoption proceeding twice. Due to the varying nature of every adoption, different costs are involved. If it is a national adoption, for instance, the couple has to pay less compared to an adoption of a child of a foreign country.

The adoption process for same sex unions is now part of a national debate that was triggered as a result of the Irish referendum, when the Irish people decided in favor of same-sex marriage. More than 150 German celebrities, from politicians to sport stars and artists, have signed an open letter directed to Angela Merkel asking for equality for same sex unions.

Similar to Pichler, Christian Krieger also tries to animate people for the cause of gay rights online. More than 40,000 people have signed his online petition for the equality of the same sex union, which is directed at the German government.

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For Pichler, however, another petition won’t change much: “I’m done with signing petitions just to have the same rights as everyone else.” According to a survey conducted by the German magazine Spiegel two-thirds of Germans are in favor of making same sex unions equal to those of heterosexual couples. With regard to other surveys, with a similar outcome, Pichler believes that the society is not the issue, but the government.

The government is currently talking about granting same sex marriages more rights, but for some union party members (CDU/CSU), full equality is out of the question. The CDU politician, Peter Tauber, asked for a clear “yes” or “no” as an answer to the same sex marriage question on Facebook. He received a clear “no” from his own colleague.

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Several politicians, such as Angela Merkel, also took a clear stance when deleting the link to the online petition that Krieger posted to several Facebook pages of CDU/CSU politicians. “After I received several negative comments the administrators of the pages removed these posts,” Krieger said.

Other parties, such as the Greens and SPD, are in favor of equality and hope that the Union parties will reconsider their position.

After the Vatican declared Ireland’s gay marriage referendum was a “defeat for humanity” many looked towards the German Catholic Church for a response to the debate. Despite many calls, the German Catholic Church failed to comment. As the magazine Spiegel stated in a recent article on the same subject, “Germany debates over same sex marriage – the Catholic Church keeps silent.”

by Anna-Lena Sachs


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