Article Title:Stuck in the Middle? Germany and Marriage Equality
Category:Comment
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:28th January 2016 - 02:22 pm
Published by:GayNZ.com
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Story ID:17841
Text:Our Australian neighbours aren't the only ones fed up with the continual delay on marriage equality in their country. In Western Europe, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the same interminable process goes on. And on. And on.   Firstly, however, there needs to be a brief recap of LGBT rights in Central Europe. Germany had one of the earliest LGBT movements within the western world, arguing for decriminalisation and reform in the nineteenth century. During the flux and experimentation of the Weimar Republic era after the end of the German monarchy and World War I, large-scale lesbian and gay movements lobbied for decriminalisation and for a while, it seemed possible that it might succeed; that is, until the German electorate was destabilised and impoverished by economic collapse and hyperinflation and heeded the demagoguery of a certain syphilitic anti-Semitic Austrian emigre artist, Adolf Hitler. Consequently, five thousand gay men died through starvation and overwork in Nazi Germany's concentration camps. After the Second World War and partition, West Germany's political configuration stabilised into several major political parties. On the right, the Christian Democratic Party combined Keynesian welfare economics with support for large capitalist enterprises and was accompanied by the classical liberal Free Democrat Party. Unfortunately for LGBT Germans, the Christian Democrats were also dependent on the Catholic Church and tended to favour religious social conservatism. In East Germany, the frontline Communist state was exposed to western social liberalism and its institutions provided some space for social reform movements, although impeded by the sclerotic and Stalinist Socialist Unity Party regime in East Berlin. However, on both sides of the Berlin Wall, which arose in 1962 to emphasise the ideological differences between the two partitioned successor states, pressure for reform and decriminalisation grew. Eventually, the nineteenth century Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code was repealed on both sides of the Wall, in 1968 (East Germany) and 1969 (West Germany). However, despite the emergence and growth of the eco-pacifist Green Party of West Germany in the eighties and nineties, the Cold War thwarted more earnest reform beyond decriminalisation, until finally, in 1990, the Soviet Union ended its Warsaw Pact satellite arrangement with Eastern Europe, most of which constituent nations elected centre-right/classical liberal governments as a consequence. In Germany, it meant reunification and the momentous collapse of the Berlin Wall, long a symbol of repression and partition. Although the German Christian Democrats and Free Democrats won the first post-unification election in 1990, the Free Democrats were experiencing difficulties, finding that their betrayal of classical liberal support for civil liberties and human rights were antagonising younger voter cohorts. Consequently, the next election saw the weakening of the Free Democrats and the rise of the union-based Social Democrat and Green Opposition parties, until the latter won federal office in the late nineties. Once that had happened, the centre-left coalition passed federal anti-discrimination laws and registered partnership legislation, as well as opening up coparent adoption for partners of lesbian and gay biological parents of children. Although current German Chancellor Angela Merkel is otherwise a social liberal when it comes to LGBT concerns, her Christian Democratic caucus is still heavily dependent on religious support and the rightist Eurosceptic and social conservative Alternatives for Germany Party is attacking its support base. Thus, it opposes marriage equality. As it is in a 'grand coalition' with the Social Democratic Party after the electoral collapse of the Free Democrats, the Social Democrats are forced to toe the party line when it comes to rejecting marriage equality, even if the majority of SPD Bundestag members actually support the German Greens, protagonists in most parliamentary marriage equality debates thus far, and will probably vote in marriage equality wherever the centre-left next wins a German election. Meanwhile, the Greens raise the issue within the Bundestag at every available opportunity. After Germany crosses the Rhine when it comes to marriage equality, Switzerland and Austria will probably quickly follow. Craig Young - 28th January 2016    
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