Tuesday, 20 December 2011

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 has already introduced legislation - 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

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