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Gay Marriage Backers Celebrate in Germany: ‘We Don’t Need to Hide’

“We don’t just want the same law. We want the same constitutional protections,” said Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany.

Activists have spent years lobbying for such a constitutional change, but it is unclear whether conservatives will allow it, said Volker Beck, a Green Party lawmaker and a longtime champion of gay rights. “Today, we celebrate our gay pride,” Mr. Beck said Saturday.

A softening in conservative opposition to gay marriage enabled Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage in June.


Supporters of transgender rights at the parade. Credit John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After two major political parties made legalization a condition of any future coalition with the Christian Democratic Union, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, Ms. Merkel, who ultimately voted against the law, said the issue should be decided as “a question of conscience, rather than something I push through with a majority vote.”

Days later, Parliament voted 393 to 226, with four abstentions, in favor of same-sex marriage.

At Saturday’s march, Pia Ernsberger, 19, who lives in Germany, said she could barely find words to describe what the vote meant to Berlin’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population. “It feels like we can go out and show who we are, like we are today, and it’s just amazing,” Ms. Ernsberger said. “We don’t need to hide.”

In recent weeks, some members of the conservative bloc — particularly within the Christian Democratic Union’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union — have also raised the prospect of bringing the law before Germany’s Constitutional Court.

“In order to achieve legal clarity, I suggest that the Constitutional Court should be called upon,” Johannes Singhammer, vice president of the Bundestag and a member of the Bavarian Christian Socialist Union, said this month, according to the German news media. “It would be faster, however, if a state government were to do this — for example, the Bavarian government.”


Germany’s Parliament voted 393 to 226 last month in favor of same-sex marriage. Now activists are fighting for a constitutional amendment. Credit John Macdougall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

However, with September elections approaching, activists see a potential constitutional challenge as a politically motivated but probably empty threat meant to appease disenchanted conservative voters. Since Ms. Merkel opened the door to same-sex marriage, the far-right Alternative for Germany party has tried to attract such voters by denouncing marriage equality and questioning its legality.

Pointing to the political pressures unique to elections and broad public support for same-sex marriage — according to available polling, a strong majority of Germans favor equality — Mr. Hochrein said the conservative bloc is poised to move onto other issues after September.

“They are trying to show their voters, before the election, that yes, they do oppose this law, but after the election we are convinced this topic will disappear from their agenda,” Mr. Hochrein said. “They know it would be a bruising, damaging fight for them, and that the president only signs things into law that he believes could not result in a Constitutional Court ruling against his signature.”

Mr. Beck, the Green Party lawmaker and fervent gay rights supporter, said that while conservative lawmakers could legally file an appeal with the Constitutional Court, such a development would not be cause for concern.

“The people support and want this, and Parliament has approved it, and I am sure that the Constitutional Court would decide in our favor,” he said. “But for now, we celebrate.”

Source: NYT > World

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