Gay Germany News & Reports 2000-02

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1 German Apology to Gays for Nazis 12/00

2 German Army Issues New Rules for Sex Attitudes 1/01

3 Half a million join Berlin homosexual parade 6/01

4 Paris and Berlin Gay Mayors Celebrate Gay Pride 6/01

5 Documentary unveils Nazi brutalization of gays 7/01

6 German Gays to Exchange Vows 8/01

7 Did gay affair provide a catalyst for Kristallnacht?10/01

8 Gay man still mourns lover killed by Nazis 11/01

9 Germany Votes to Pardon Gays Prosecuted by Nazis 5/02

10 German Court OKs Gay Marriage 7/02

10a Court Hands German Gays Victory over Conservatives 7/02



Planet Out (http://www.planetout.com)

December 8, 2000

1
German Apology to Gays for Nazis

by PlanetOut News Staff
Years after other victims of the Nazis were acknowledged by the government, the Bundestag seeks to honor — and perhaps compensate — the gays of the Holocaust.

By a unanimous vote December 7, the lower house of the German parliament, the Bundestag, issued a long-awaited apology to gays persecuted under the Nazi regime, Agence France Presse reported. A motion by the ruling coalition of Socialists and Greens said, "The parliament is convinced that the honor of the homosexual victims of Nazism must be rebuilt and apologizes for the harm done to homosexual citizens up to 1969 in their human dignity, their opening out and their quality of life." Activists had long sought the apology, which other victims of the Nazis had received years earlier.

The resolution also called on the government to report on appropriate compensation for gay Holocaust victims, although they have already been included in some recent international compensation efforts. Soon after taking power, the Nazis beefed up anti-gay laws until so much as a look between two men could lead to arrest. Although there were lesbian victims as well, they were not specifically targeted in law and were held on other grounds such as "anti-social behavior."

The Nazis crushed Germany’s previously burgeoning gay and lesbian movement by forcing prisoners to name their associates. Although the most commonly quoted figure for gay victims sent to concentration camps is ten thousand, some historians believe it may have been vastly higher. Gays were typically the worst-treated of all concentration camp inmates. Unlike other victimized groups, gay men were still considered criminals after liberation. The infamous Paragraph 175 was not removed from the penal code until 1969. On leaving the camps, most gay men tried to hide the reason for their incarceration, and it’s only in recent years that a very few have come forward to testify to their experiences.



Planet Out,
http://www.planetout.com/pno/news/article.html?2001/01/24/4

January 24, 2001

2
German Army Issues New Rules for Sex Attitudes

A 6-page booklet explains that the rules of sexual engagement apply equally to all soldiers, including gays and lesbians.

by PlanetOut News Staff
The Inspector General of the German armed forces on January 23 issued new guidelines to instruct officers in ensuring equal treatment of gays and lesbians and women, a six-page manual of regulations entitled "How to Deal with Sexuality." The German army has undergone revolutionary changes over the last year through a series of court rulings and other decisions which have eliminated a "glass ceiling" for gays and lesbians and opened combat roles to women for the first time, creating a need for new rules. The military is also transitioning from a primarily conscripted force to a primarily professional one.

"The obligation for comradeship means tolerance for sexual practices and orientations which are not illegal and this accordingly means for [gay and lesbian] soldiers," Inspector General Harald Kujat wrote. He advised that because there is still prejudice against them, "a consciousness must be created in which the ability to carry out military tasks is not measured by the sexual orientation of the soldier." Between all military personnel, sexist remarks, provocative behavior, demands for sex, and sexually suggestive touching are now clearly prohibited. Even the classic pinup photo in the locker is banned. For those unable or unwilling to comply, Kujat recommends transfer.



Reuters

June 23, 2001

3
Half a million join Berlin homosexual parade

Berlin – Hundreds of thousands of gays and lesbians from around the world, some just wearing underwear, braved rain and chilly temperatures to join Berlin’s Christopher Street Day festival on Saturday. German police said around 500,000 had attended the city’s annual tribute to homosexuals. They marched more than five km (three miles) through the centre of Berlin, led by 80 parade wagons.

Many were clad in leather but some took to the streets in nothing more than their underwear. The parade, an annual event in Berlin since 1979, began near the Kurfuerstendamm shopping avenue and wended its way through the government quarter, past city hall where Berlin last week inaugurated its first openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. He triggered a national discussion earlier this month by revealing his homosexuality just before he was named mayor. Even though Germans are by and large tolerant, Social Democrat Wowereit was the first politician from a major party to come out.

His candidacy was backed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The Christopher Street Day traces it roots to New York City where police and homosexuals battled in 1969.



Associated Press

June 23, 2001

4
Paris and Berlin Gay Mayors Celebrate Gay Pride

By Angela Doland

Paris – Paris and Berlin celebrated gay pride on Saturday with rollicking parades that drew revelers who held hands, waved rainbow banners and danced to techno beats. The cities’ mayors, both openly gay, were at the center of the festivities. Bertrand Delanoe — the first Paris mayor to participate in his city’s parade — held a banner reading "All together against discrimination,” as he led a parade of tens of thousands in the French capital. Police said there were 250,000 demonstrators and the same number of spectators.

In Berlin, the brightly striped rainbow flag symbolizing the gay rights movement flew over city hall for the first time, as hundreds of thousands turned out to watch or participate in the parade. Klaus Wowereit, the German capital’s mayor, was greeted by cheering crowds as he took to the podium and promised to lead the city in tolerance and to fight politically against the Neo-Nazi scene. "We won’t give the right extremists a finger’s width,” Wowereit said. Wowereit was chosen as interim mayor last week by the city parliament only a few months after Delanoe was elected, in a sign of greater acceptance of gay politicians in some parts of Europe.

"Any time there are Parisians fighting for more freedom … I’m with them,” Delanoe, a Socialist who took office in March, told The Associated Press. "This is the seventh year that I’ve gone to the Gay Pride parade — it’s not just because I’ve become Paris mayor that I feel I have to take part.” People camped out along the parade route that wound though Paris, past the site of the former Bastille jail, heading north to the Place de la Republique. One group of marchers lined up to hold an enormous fluttering rainbow flag over their heads. Some marchers dressed casually, other more elaborately. Vincent Agudo, a 32-year-old Parisian, wore a purple feather boa and carried a white parasol. "I’m here because gay people should have the same rights as everyone else,” Agudo said. Like many other marchers, Agudo said he wanted France to lift laws that ban gay people from adopting children.

In 1999, France passed a law giving unmarried couples — including gays — some of the same rights as married couples, including the right to file joint tax forms. But France’s efforts are considered a step behind several of its neighbors’ attempts to promote gay rights. On Friday, the Belgian government approved a bill to fully legalize same-sex weddings, a measure that, if approved by parliament, would make the country the second in the world to recognize gay marriages, after the Netherlands.

In Berlin, drag queens wearing purple wigs and groups of young men with gay pride mottos painted across their bare chests were among the crowds that packed Berlin’s Kurfuerstendamm boulevard for the annual Christopher Street Day parade. Nicholas Batten, a parade organizer, estimated that as many as 1 million people turned out to watch the parade. "This year was the biggest ever,” said Batten. The motto of this year’s parade, "Berlin stands queer against the right-wing” — a pun on the German word "quer,” which means to stand across something’s path — underlined the event’s political aim to fight discrimination. While Berlin has a history of acceptance of gays that goes back as far as the 19th century, other parts of Germany are more conservative. The government of the state of Bavaria is fighting to prevent a federal law granting rights to same-sex couples from taking effect Aug. 1.

For the first time, Berlin’s festivities included civil courage awards recognizing people who fight discrimination in everyday life. A special award was to go to Paul Spiegel, the head of the Jewish community in Germany, who has publicly supported homosexuals in their fight for recognition of persecution suffered under the Nazis. In Milan, Italy, about 30,000 people — flanked by colored balloons — marched through the city center to demand equal rights for gays in a festive parade that featured music and dancing. But the city of Milan, however, did not support the parade. Vice-Mayor Riccardo De Corato told the ANSA news agency that the municipality did "not share the sentiments of this rally.”



New York Times

July 6, 2001

5
Documentary unveils Nazi brutalization of gays

by Ken Parish Perkins, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Albrecht Becker, his voice faint at times, cracking at others, is speaking of his first romantic affair. He was 18, his lover 45. They stayed together for 10 years, though he stops short of calling it romantic bliss. Becker, now well into his 80s, was a motion-picture art director residing in Hamburg in Nazi Germany – and he was openly gay.

He admitted as much to police when they hauled him away to jail, beating him to a pulp along the way. Upon his release, Becker found he could no longer live comfortably in the village where he grew up since all the men had left to join the army. So he enlisted, too. Photos of Becker’s lovers are scattered about in "Paragraph 175," a provocative documentary airing Monday on HBO that boldly reveals a seldom-told story of the Holocaust – one that has long been kept neatly out of sight.

Paragraph 175 was a portion of the German penal code dating to 1871. It broadened the definition of illegal male homosexual behavior (the German authorities viewed lesbianism as a curable condition), and it was brutally enforced as part of the Nazi campaign to eliminate so-called "undesirables." Between 1933 and 1945, about 100,000 men were arrested under the aegis of Paragraph 175.

Gay men, mostly German Christians, were forced to wear pink triangles, imprisoned and often sent to concentration camps where they were beaten, shot to death or left to die from horrible illnesses. About 4,000 survived, according to this documentary. Six appear on camera here to tell the little-known stories of their devastating experiences, and all six look beaten down, as though they’ve been to hell and back.

Heinz Dormer remembers being part of a youth movement that spawned a generation of idealistic young Germans proclaiming a romantic, sensual, physical vision of the world. He tells of having sex with some boys in his group, which ended up being overcome by, or assimilated into, the burgeoning Hitler Youth movement. He also describes the "singing forest" – the screams of prisoners hung from trees in the forest as their captors prolonged their agonizing final moments.

Annette Eick says Weimar Germany was in the 1920s a kind of "homosexual Eden," with authorities largely ignoring Paragraph 175, and sexual pioneers like Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld leading campaigns for gay emancipation. She describes the atmosphere of Berlin clubs that catered to lesbians, many of whom dressed as men, and remembers having a crush on "a Marlene Dietrich look-alike who later saved my life" by getting her a permit to flee Germany during the war.

That’s as light as this documentary gets. Becker and his lover lived under constant fear because gays were viewed not as political prisoners but as criminals under the Nazi sodomy law, which remained on the books through the late ’60s. Paragraph 175 shows how Hitler changed his laissez-faire policy toward the homosexual culture by making scapegoats of gays, who often met the same fate as the millions of Jews who were eliminated as part of the Final Solution. Yet another grim chapter to the brutal Nazi legacy.



Associated Press, Berlin

August 1, 2001

6
German Gays to Exchange Vows

by Stephen Graham
German gays exchanged vows at partnership ceremonies Wednesday, gaining rights previously reserved for married couples as a new law went into effect despite fierce opposition from some conservatives. Dozens of ceremonies across the country marked a victory in a decade-old fight by gay rights groups to bring Germany in line with other European countries that have passed similar legislation. In Berlin, Germany’s unofficial gay capital, vows were exchanged by two members of the Greens party, which campaigned hard for the legislation.

"We exchanged rings symbolically five years ago, but this is the real thing,” said Gudrun Pannier, 36, beaming in a dark suit inside the wood-paneled registry office in Berlin’s Schoeneberg district. "We are all equal, so we should be treated equally,” said her identically dressed partner, Angelika Baldow, also 36. The couple exchanged rings at a brief ceremony in front of about 30 guests.

The law allows gay couples to register their unions at government offices and requires a court decision for divorce. Same-sex couples also will receive inheritance and health insurance rights given to married spouses. The law was passed by the lower house of parliament last year, but the upper house — where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s coalition of the Social Democrats and Greens lacks a majority — voted to withhold some tax privileges granted to married couples.

Berlin’s mayor sent congratulations to couples registering in Berlin. "You have taken the first step into new territory,” wrote Klaus Wowereit, who became Germany’s most prominent openly gay politician when he took power in June. Couples in three states — Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hesse — will have to wait before they can officially seal their partnerships, as authorities there have delayed implementing the new law. Germany’s highest court is considering an application to force conservative-led Bavaria to put the new law into effect immediately, but wasn’t expected to rule in time. Gay groups planned to protest Wednesday in Munich, the state capital. Bavaria, along with the eastern state of Saxony, unsuccessfully sought an injunction in Federal Constitutional Court to prevent the law from taking effect Aug. 1, arguing that the law violates constitutional provisions protecting marriage and family.

Countries that have granted legal status to same-sex couples include France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriages in April. In the United States, Vermont became the first state to grant marriage-like rights to same-sex couples when it approved a civil union law last year. Another 34 states have adopted so-called "defense of marriage” laws, defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. German gays said they would continue their campaign until they gained all the rights accorded married couples. "It doesn’t fulfill everyone’s wishes and dreams, but it’s a great step forward,” Wowereit said. "It should cause something that was never abnormal to be recognized as normal everywhere in Germany.”



The Guardian. London ( http://www.guardian.co.uk )

31 October 2001

7
Did gay affair provide a catalyst for Kristallnacht? Historian says Jewish boy killed his Nazi lover

by Kate Connolly
The assassination of a top German diplomat which triggered Kristallnacht, the organised Nazi pogrom against Jews across Germany, was not politically-motivated, as commonly believed, but the result of a homosexual love affair between a Nazi diplomat and a young Jewish man, according to a leading expert on the Third Reich. Hans-Jürgen Döscher, considered Germany’s foremost authority on the events of November 9 1938 following the publication last year of his definitive history, Reichskristallnacht, has gathered scores of documents and eyewitness accounts, including the diaries of the French writer André Gide, to support the theory.

On November 7 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a Jew, walked into the German embassy in Paris and shot Ernst vom Rath, a German diplomat, five times. Vom Rath died two days later. Nazi propagandists condemned the shooting as a terrorist attack to further the cause of the Jewish "world revolution", and the pogrom was launched.

The attacks –called Kristallnacht (crystal night), an ironic reference to the broken glass left on the streets — led to the murder of 91 Jews, the arrests of 26,000 others and the destruction of 177 synagogues. Until now, it was widely believed that Grynszpan had intended to shoot the ambassador, Count Johannes Welczek, in protest at the SS’s expulsion of his parents to Poland. But according to Professor Döscher, who teaches modern history at Osnabrück University, Grynszpan’s actions were a spontaneous expression of anger over the broken promises of his lover, Vom Rath, not a political gesture.

In the updated edition of Reichskristallnacht, due to be published in November, Prof Döscher claims that Vom Rath was nicknamed Mrs Ambassador and Notre Dame de Paris as a result of his homosexual antics. He and Grynszpan — a "boy with a beautiful penetrative gaze" — met in Le Boeuf sur le Toit bar, a popular haunt for gay men in the autumn of 1938 and became intimate. Grynszpan, who was in his late teens, had been living illegally in Paris, and Prof Döscher states that 29-year-old Vom Rath agreed to use his influential position to secure official papers for his friend.

When Vom Rath went back on his word, Grynszpan reacted by storming into the German embassy on rue de Lille 78, demanding to see him, and opening fire on him with a revolver. Grynszpan was arrested and languished in jail in France until 1940, when he was handed over to the Nazis, who planned a show trial which would be used to justify the outbreak of the second world war.

A combined report from the German foreign, justice and propaganda ministries in January 1942 declared: "The purpose of the trial should be to clarify to the German people and the world that the international community of Jews is to blame for the outbreak of this war." According to Prof Döscher, when Grynszpan learned of this motivation for the trial in the early 40s, he revealed the real truth to his Nazi captors. Fearing embarrassment and humiliation, they then stripped Vom Rath of his martyrdom and scrapped their plans.

Grynszpan was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and then disappeared. He was declared dead in 1960. Prof Döscher gleaned his previously unpublished evidence from court archives, reports from the propaganda ministry, letters, diary extracts, and interviews with diplomats of the time. Most startling are the diaries of Andre Gide, in which the writer expresses his amazement that the scandal failed to gain public attention. Vom Rath, Gide wrote, "had an exceptionally intimate relationship with the little Jew, his murderer". Referring to the fact that Vom Rath was both gay and had an affair with a Jew, Gide later said: "The thought that a such highly-thought of representative of the Third Reich sinned twice according to the laws of his country is rather amusing." But that was not what amazed him most. "How is it that the press failed to bring this scandal into the open?" he asked.



Miami Herald ( http://www.herald.com )

November 17, 2001

8
Gay man still mourns lover killed by Nazis

by Steve Rothaus
Gad Beck, 78 and ailing, vividly recalls his "great, great love” and how he lost him to the Nazis. Sixty years later, Beck still calls it "the darkest hour of my life.” He says it’s important for him to tell his story, however painful. So two years ago, the retired educator wrote an autobiography, "An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin." And that year as well, he was one of a handful of known gay Holocaust survivors to appear in a film documentary called "Paragraph 175," which will be screened Sunday at Temple Israel in Miami. Paragraph 175 was an 1871 section in the German criminal code that strictly prohibited anal intercourse, German historian Lothar Machtan said.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis rewrote Paragraph 175 to outlaw all forms of male homosexuality. Lesbians were excluded from the law. "That was the basis for the prosecution, persecution, harassment – even the killing of homosexuals – by the Third Reich,” said Machtan, author of a controversial new book called "The Hidden Hitler," which alleges with no proof that Hitler himself was gay. Between 1933 and 1945, German police arrested an estimated 100,000 men as homosexuals, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. About 50,000 of those men were sentenced by German courts to regular prisons; between 5,000 and 15,000 were interned in concentration camps.

Pink Triangles
Forced to wear pink triangles signifying their homosexuality, these men were among the most-abused prisoners in the concentration camps, according to the Holocaust museum. No one knows how many gay men died in the camps. Gad Beck was born in 1923 in Berlin to a Jewish father and a Christian mother. Early on, Beck became aware of his homosexuality. "At the age of 12, it was clear to me I was in love with a boyfriend,” Beck said last week from his home in Berlin. But, he added, "in the time I was a young boy, there was no way you could speak of it.” At 15, Beck met and fell in love with Manfred Lewin, a 16-year-old Jew. Three years later, Lewin and his family were jailed by the Nazis. Because Beck’s mother wasn’t Jewish, the Germans didn’t intern him. He joined and became a leader in the Jewish underground in Germany.

VisitT To Jail
One day, Beck stole a German soldier’s uniform and sneaked into the jail where Lewin was being held. He pleaded with Lewin to escape. "He said to me, ‘Look, this is impossible to understand. No Gad, I can never be free. I’m with my whole family.’ He went back,” Beck said. "We had prepared a life together. . . . Three weeks after this meeting, he was going to Auschwitz with his whole family,” said Beck, who never saw Lewin again. After World War II ended, Beck searched for Lewin and discovered that he and his family perished in Auschwitz. [Before Lewin’s arrest, he gave Gad Beck a handwritten diary about their life together. The book, with English translation, can be viewed online at the museum’s website, www.ushmm.org/doyourememberwhen/co/co.htm]

In 1947, Beck helped organize the emigration of Jewish survivors to Palestine. He lived in Israel until 1979, when he returned to Berlin. In 60 years, much has changed for gay men in Germany. In 1994, after the two Germanys reunited, the law was abolished. Earlier this year, the German congress voted to allow gay civil unions. And last month, Klaus Wowereit was elected mayor of Berlin. During the campaign in June, Wowereit announced: "I’m gay and that’s a good thing.” In Germany and around the world, that has become a cult phrase among gay men and women.

Normalization
"There has been a very positive change and a trend toward ‘normalization,”’ said Marc Fest, 35, a gay businessman born in West Germany and now living in Miami Beach. Although Fest grew up hearing about Paragraph 175, he knew little about the gay men who died during World War II. "The first time I heard there were gay people in the concentration camps was not in school,” Fest said. "We were fed an extraordinary amount of information about what happened in the Third Reich. Every year in history class, we were looking at a different aspect and a different angle about those events. "The first thing I remember, I saw a reference to that was when I moved to Berlin to go to the university in 1989. I remember at a subway station I saw a new memorial, a pink triangle made of marble at a subway station in the gay district of West Berlin.” The inscription: "Beaten to death, silenced to death – to the homosexual Nazi victims.” .

Steve Rothaus is online at http://miami.com/gay



Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-germany-nazi-gays.html

May 17, 2002

9
Germany Votes to Pardon Gays Prosecuted by Nazis

Berlin – Germany’s parliament passed legislation Friday allowing around 50,000 gay men prosecuted by the Nazis because of their sexuality to be pardoned, even posthumously. The legislation also amended a 1998 law to make it easier for convictions against deserters from the German army between 1933 and 1945 to be quashed. Anti-gay measures passed in 1935 formed part of a Nazi philosophy that deemed homosexuals alien to the state’s aim to create a "super-race.” "The new state … must firmly counter all unnatural sexual urges,” the preamble to the 1935 law said, singling out gay men. If found guilty, victims faced up to 10 years in prison or concentration camps, where thousands died.

Other gay men were forcibly sterilized or subjected to medical experiments. The legislation remained unchanged on Germany’s statute books until 1969. Friday’s legislation amended a 1998 bill aimed at tackling legal injustices handed down during Adolf Hitler’s regime which had been criticized for only allowing judicial reviews on a case-by-case basis and leaving out some victims, including homosexuals. Campaigners welcomed the vote. "Finally victims will be rehabilitated – even if many are already dead, this will make things easier for their relations and descendants,” Farid Mueller, a Hamburg campaigner said in a statement.



Associated Press
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/international/AP-Germany-Gay-Couples.html

July 17, 2002

10
German Court OKs Gay Marriage
(2 versions of same story)

Berlin – Germany’s gay marriage law was upheld Wednesday by the supreme court, which rejected a complaint that it violates constitutional provisions protecting marriage and the family. Judges at the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe voted 5-3 to back the law, which was challenged last year by Bavaria and two other states. Bavaria is governed by Edmund Stoiber, the conservative challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in the September parliamentary elections.

The law, in force since last August, allows gay couples to seal their partnership at registry offices and requires a court decision for divorce. Same-sex couples also receive rights given to heterosexual couples in areas such as inheritance and health insurance. An estimated 4,400 couples have tied the knot under the legislation, about 1 percent of the number of heterosexual marriages sealed annually. Supporters hope many gay couples who were waiting for the court decision will now marry. "I’m enormously relieved," said Volker Beck, a lawmaker from the Greens party, which led the drive for the legislation. "This is a gigantic day for gays and lesbians in Germany."

Stoiber said he regretted the decision, but said he would not seek to overturn it if the conservatives win the upcoming election. The new law brought Germany in line with countries such as Denmark, which was the first to grant rights to gay couples in 1989, France and Sweden. It also underlines growing tolerance in a country where the Nazis persecuted gays and homosexual couples have only been allowed to live together since 1984.



Reuters
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-germany-gays.html

July 17, 2002

10a
Court Hands German Gays Victory over Conservatives

Berlin -Germany’s gays and lesbians scored a victory over the country’s opposition conservatives on Wednesday as the highest court ruled in favor of a new law allowing same-sex marriages. The Constitutional Court rejected a complaint by conservative-ruled states which argued that recognizing gay marriages upset family values enshrined in the constitution. The conservatives want to project themselves as guardians of the traditional family ahead of a September election. They are ahead in opinion polls, largely because of high unemployment rather than because they hold any moral high ground. The law, championed by the environmentalist Greens party and approved by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats with whom they govern, came into force last August.

It was accompanied by much media fanfare, with front pages showing photos of gay men cutting wedding cakes together. Germany’s LSVD association of gays and lesbians said in a statement: ‚ÄúThe judges have told the conservative hard-liners once and for all that discrimination against lesbian and homosexual couples runs counter to the constitution.”

Gay Mayor Pleased
Berlin’s Social Democrat Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who is openly gay, also welcomed the decision. "It’s a decisive step toward ensuring that Germany recognizes as normal something that has never been abnormal,” he said. Anti-gay measures passed in 1935 formed part of a Nazi philosophy that deemed homosexuals alien to the state’s aim to create a "super-race.”

Those found guilty faced years in prison or concentration camps, where thousands died. Other gay men were forcibly sterilized or subjected to medical experiments. The legislation remained unchanged on Germany’s statute books until 1969. Today, homosexuality is broadly accepted in Germany and many cities have openly gay districts and hold gay parades. Wowereit’s public coming out scarcely featured in the Berlin regional election that brought him to power last October. Voters are largely indifferent about their politicians’ personal lives, whether gay or straight. Schroeder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer have each been married four times.

There have been an estimated 4,500 gay marriages since the law came into force. Some five percent of adults over 20 in Germany are believed to be gay, according to the LSVD. Under the new law, lesbians and gays who register their relationships have the same inheritance rights as heterosexuals, may share a common surname, and their foreign partners will be allowed to join them in Germany. But the law does not accord lesbian and gay couples the tax advantages granted to heterosexual married pairs, or the right to adopt children. The relationships are not officially called ‚Äúmarriages” but ‚Äúregistered life partnerships.”

Several Scandinavian countries as well as the Netherlands, France and Portugal have passed similar laws. Edmund Stoiber, conservative challenger to Schroeder, said he regretted the court’s ruling but would not try to repeal the law if he wins the election. However, he said he would fight attempts to grant homosexual couples the same tax advantages heterosexual couples enjoy. "I am against alternative forms of partnership becoming closely equivalent to the state of marriage,” said Stoiber, a grandfather married to the same woman for 30 years.

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