Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 2001, you’re probably aware that European countries unquestionably lead the world in enshrining marriage equality for same-sex couples into civil law. Since the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage eleven years ago, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden have followed suit; both the United Kingdom and France are expected to do so in the near future.
Conspicuously absent from the list of marriage equality nations are two of Europe’s most important social, cultural, historic, and economic powerhouses: Germany and Italy. And to their great shame, neither country appears willing to stop discriminating against loving and committed same-sex couples in the near future.
In a damning post on LGBTQ Nation titled “On marriage, Germany hasn’t evolved beyond seedy beer hall discussions,” columnist Sebastian Pfeffer — who covers German domestic politics for The European, a Germany-based online magazine — rebuked the German parliament for rejecting a marriage equality proposal and his fellow Germans for their deep-seeded homophobia.
. . . Germany – a supposedly progressive country – hasn’t evolved beyond the level of seedy beer hall discussions. We have not yet freed ourselves from old prejudices.
The parliament’s decision last week illustrated how deep homophobia still runs in our society and in our political system. Two parties – the Greens and the Social Democrats – had introduced a separate bill that would have immediately legalized same-sex marriage or tasked the government with drafting a law that would do so in the near future. The two government parties – the liberals and the conservatives – voted against the bill.
Germany currently has a gay foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who represents his country to the world and whose vote might mean the difference between war and peace, yet he is not allowed to marry his long-time partner. His own party voted against the bill!
Pfeffer demolishes the scientifically and morally bankrupt arguments made by ”homophobic moralists” in Germany that same-sex couples don’t deserve to marry because they can’t produce children, and that “man ought not lie with a man, nor a woman with another woman.” (It’s worth noting that these are essentially the same outlandish claims made by opponents of equality here in the United States.) He notes the inequality of the status quo, which allows same-sex couples in Germany to enter into “registered partnerships” that provide some basic protections but nothing remotely comparable to marriage, and concludes:
A religious denomination can decide its own rules and refuse to marry gays and lesbians. Nobody is forced to subscribe to its particular set of beliefs.
But the state doesn’t have that freedom. When a couple decides to get married, it doesn’t matter whether they are men or women or black or white or catholic or protestant. Any discrimination on those grounds constitutes a degrading interference with basic rights.
No good argument exists against same-sex marriage, and it is a scandal (and quite revealing) that the German parliament has refused to defend it.
The situation isn’t any better in Italy. Gay Star News reports that the Italian Partito Democratico (PD) — the nation’s most popular party, according to recent polls — voted down a proposal from lesbian MP Anna Paola Concia that would have opened debate about same-sex marriage. The party’s leader, Pierluigi Bersani, insisted that they “[could] not vote the document on gay marriage because we have proposed another document on civil liberties for LGBT people,” referring to a civil union measure he called for in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality last spring. PD President Rosy Bindi, a Catholic, added that the party ”cannot back same-sex marriage because it would be against our constitution.”
According to the report, the vote to shut down the debate on marriage equality angered the PD’s base, which had hoped the party would follow the lead of French President François Hollande instead of caving to right-wing reactionism.
Meanwhile, same-sex couples in Italy have absolutely no rights or protections under the law.
Shame on both Italy and Germany.