Gay Marriage for Germany, France?

While the bulk of English language reporting on gay marriage has focussed on three English – speaking countries, the state level battles in the US, the promise of equality for the UK, and on the political push in Australia, there is also important movement in several European countries. Denmark and Finland have expressed their intention to introduce enabling legislation (in 2012 and 2013 respectively), and Luxembourg introduced a bill in 2010 – it is just not clear when the process will be concluded.

 Now, there are encouraging reports of progress in the European Union’s two major countries, Germany and France:

“Germany’s Social Democrat opposition (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) backed marriage equality at its national convention in early December.

The vote from delegates was unanimous that the party should seek to change German law should the party form the next government, almost certainly in alliance with smaller parties which already back gay marriage such as the Greens.
They also voted unanimously to end discrimination in adoption law.
Ansgar Dittmar, National Chairman of lesbians and gays in the SPD (Schwusos), said that the party had decided that there was now no more legitimacy in maintaining two parallel institutions of marriage and life partnership.
Marriage equality could come sooner as the city state of Hamburg has introduced it into the German Senate and the SPD has introduced a bill into the Bundestag.
Registered life partnerships (effectively, a form of civil union) have been instituted since 2001, giving same-sex couples rights and obligations in areas such as inheritance, alimony, health insurance, immigration and name change but no tax benefits.

Polls show a healthy majority of Germans favor marriage equality.”

Read more: Care2 Causes

There can be no doubt that marriage and family equality will come to Germany: the only real question, is “When?” With its support flagging under the impact of economic troubles, the ruling party may well end up losing the next election. Even if it manages to survive, that is not the end of the road for marriage in Germany. Inside government, the Vice-Chancellor is openly gay, and regularly attends government or political functions accompanied by his partner.
Berlin, the capital, is well-known to be one of the most gay -friendly cities anywhere, has a prominent openly gay mayor, and has introduced a form of local recognition for gay marriage, independently of the national government. Hamburg is another major city pushing for equality, and the opposition parties are now lining up in support of equality.
The courts have already ruled that in terms of the constitution, same-sex couples must be given equal treatment to others, so the politicians are obliged either to legislate for full marriage, or to devise ways to strengthen the protection under existing civil unions law. Across Northehn Europe, one country after another is concluding that civil unions cannot offer full equality, and have upgraded to full equality (Sweden, Norway, Iceland), or is preparing to do so (Denmark, Finland, UK).
Even if Angela Merkel pulls a rabbit out of the hat and secures another term for her government, sooner or later, she will have to face the fact that she is required by the courts to provide equal protection – and this cannot be done simply by further tweaking of civil unions.
Meanwhile, marriage equality could also be coming to France. Just as David Cameron has taken on gay marriage for the UK as a Conservative cause, Nicholas Sarkozy could be doing the same for France:

Despite marriage equality losing heavily in the French parliament in July, rumors are swirling in France that President Nicholas Sarkozy will support marriage equality and gay families in next year’s election. He is reported to have been inspired by the leadership of fellow conservative David Cameron, who told his party’s congress earlier this year:

I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.

Read more: Care2

Further down the line, some of the laggards are preparing to introduce other forms of recognition: Malta, for instance, is considering de facto recognition (possibly similar to that of Croatia). Greece and Romania are considering civil unions or partnership registration. In heavily Catholic Ireland, which introduced civil partnerships on from January this year, upgrading to full marriage is not yet widely discussed – but it cannot be far off. Opinion polls show strong, and rapidly increasing, support for full marriage equality: 58% support in 2008, rising to 67% in 2011.
That leaves only Italy – and with Berlusconi out of the way, when (and if) they sort out their financial mess, it’s anybody’s guess where they’ll be headed on marriage, but civil unions eventually will be more likely than not.
But that won’t include Vatican City.
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3 comments for “Gay Marriage for Germany, France?

  1. December 20, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    It is often forgotten that LGBT people are fighting for rights in other EU countries, thanks for this post Terence. As always, the Scandinavian countries have led the way, with the Netherlands of course, but the eastern part of the EU seems to be getting on board to. I didn’t know about Croatia for example, and I like ot think I’m quite well informed about these things (maybe I’ve just forgotten :D)

    So-called Catholic countries are fast taking the lead here, with Ireland moving ever more swiftly to full equality and the legislature in South American countries pondering the seemingly unponderable. Even Mexico is doing well here.

    France decriminalised homosexuality in 1791; the first country in Europe to do so I believe. Although Andorra, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco decriminalised in the 18th century to. Germany however had the notorious Paragraph 175 on its statute books until

    It’s chaos out there!!

    • December 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Some useful observations here, Jennifer. You’re right about France – I didn’t know about Andorra and the others (all Catholic countries).You quite obviously are well-informed.

      As a (white) African, I like to point out the only countries that have never needed to decriminalize,  were eight from Africa. 

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