Same-Sex Couples Wed in Germany as Marriage Law Takes Effect

Berlin — Cheers rang out in the City Hall of Berlin’s Schöneberg district on Sunday as two men, who met 38 years ago, when the German capital was a divided city, became the country’s first same-sex couple to legally marry.

The couple, Bodo Mende, 60, and Karl Kreile, 59, were wed in a civil ceremony, surrounded by a crush of photographers and television cameras eager to capture the historic moment.

Not even the crying of a child among the relatives and friends who attended the event interrupted their joy as the couple exchanged a long kiss after they were pronounced husband and husband.

“This is an emotional moment with great symbolism,” Mr. Kreile told reporters before the event. “The transition to the term ‘marriage’ shows that the German state recognizes us as real equals.”

In June, Germany became the 15th European country to grant same-sex couples the right to marry, after a swift vote in Parliament that followed a brief but emotional debate. A previous German law had allowed civil unions between same-sex couples since 2001, but those unions did not offer couples the same legal rights and were considered by many to be a second-class form of marriage.

Across the country, city halls that are normally closed on the weekend opened their doors to allow marriages on the first day the law took effect. Dozens of couples were expected to exchange vows in Berlin, as well as in Cologne, Hamburg, Hanover and Kiel on Sunday and the days beyond.

Gordon Holland, a registrar in Schöneberg, said, “We’re making a single exception to fire a symbolic starter pistol because same-sex marriages are possible from today,” according to The Associated Press.

Same-sex couples getting married at the Town Hall in Hamburg, Germany. Credit Fabian Bimmer/Reuters
Mr. Holland said it was appropriate for the district to hold the first same-sex wedding in the country because it had long been a center of gay life in the German capital.

Daniela & Gerlinde sind das erste Berliner Frauenpaar. Hurra & herzlichen Glückwunsch #Ehefueralle

— Anja Kofbinger (@AnjaKofbinger) Oct. 1, 2017

“Marriage equality is a milestone for a modern society,” Heiko Maas, Germany’s justice minister, wrote on Twitter. “Thanks to everyone who fought so long for this. Today is your day.”

Conservatives, including the Roman Catholic Church, remain opposed to allowing same-sex couples to marry. The head of the German Bishop’s Conference expressed his “regret” that the country had “abandoned the essential meaning of marriage” at the time the law passed Parliament.

In June, Chancellor Angela Merkel surprised many in her conservative Christian Democratic Union, long opposed to changing the law despite growing indications that society widely approved of marriage equality, by expressing openness to allowing a “vote of conscience” on the issue.

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

One of the most important changes of the new law is that married same-sex couples gain the right to adopt children.
Previously, a same-sex partner in a civil union was allowed to adopt the biological child of his or her partner, but a legally recognized couple was not allowed to adopt.

Ms. Merkel said her softened stance was in part because of a lesbian who had raised at least eight foster children with her partner and had reached out to the chancellor. Although she did not visit the couple, Ms. Merkel said the invitation forced her to reflect on the importance of a stable, loving home, regardless of the parents’ sexual orientation.

Among those exchanging vows on Sunday was Volker Beck, a member of the Greens party and a former lawmaker who fought for decades for marriage equality.

Herzlichen Glückwunsch @Volker_Beck & Adrian! #EheFürAlle

— Charlotte (@MissCharlez) Oct. 1, 2017

Months after he was showered with confetti on the floor of Parliament as the law passed, he celebrated his marriage to Adrian Petkov under shiny gold balloons spelling out “Love.”

by Melissa Eddy
Source – The New York Times