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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 29, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 22
Angela Merkel says 'nein!' to marriage equality
Section One
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Angela Merkel says 'nein!' to marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While the overwhelming vote for marriage equality in Ireland prompted calls for similar action across Europe, Germany's Angela Merkel stands squarely in the way.

Merkel's government said that at most it will agree to small changes in existing civil partnership laws, but marriage remains off the table.

'Today was an important milestone in dismantling discrimination and the chancellor is pleased about that,' Merkel spokesperson Steffen Seibert said after the changes were announced May 27. 'But same-sex marriages are not a goal of this government.'

'Every country makes its own laws - some countries go one route while others go another,' Seibert added when asked about Ireland. 'In Germany we'll take a path that suits Germany.'

Merkel heads a coalition of three center-right parties, the largest of which is her own Christian Democratic Union (CDU), plus the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD).

The vast majority of CDU officials are against same-sex marriage, either because of their own convictions or because they fear losing the next election if right-wing voters abandon their party. In contrast, the SPD supports marriage equality, as do 75% of German voters.

Reacting to the government's minor expansion of civil partnership rights, Justice Minister Heiko Maas of the SPD was disappointed that Germany did not take a bigger leap.

'Expanding rights for registered partnerships is another step toward giving same-sex unions the same rights as marriages. We haven't reached the goal yet,' Maas said.

'Unfortunately that wasn't possible with the conservatives.'

The political logjam over this issue is standard operating procedure for Merkel's coalition government, which has been unable to enact reforms that go beyond their 2013 contract.

'This government isn't capable of spontaneous reforms and is unable to move with the times,' said Thomas Jaeger, a political science professor at Cologne University.

'These are two big parties in the way of each other that don't have the courage to tackle anything not agreed on in advance in their coalition agreement.'

Under the SPD-Green coalition government that ruled Germany from 1998 through 2005, Germany was among the first in Europe to allow same-sex registered partnerships. Under Merkel, however, the country is falling behind the rest of Western Europe in protecting LGBT rights.

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