Germany celebrates it’s first same-sex marriage right after the new law comes into play which gives gay and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Weddings across Germany
Towns halls opened their doors in cities such as Berlin, Hamburg and beyond but the first official ceremony took place in Berlin’s Schoeneberg district. According to Gordon Hollad, a registrar in the region, Schoeneberg was the ideal location to hold the first gay marriage because it has long served as the center of gay life in Berlin.
Since the 1920s, the district has fostered a culture of free-spirit that was immortalized in the novels of Britain’s Christopher Isherwood. It has served as one of the focal points of the battle of gay rights in Germany, even hosting the world’s first gay rights demonstration in 1922.
“We’re making a single exception to fire a symbolic starter pistol because same-sex marriages are possible from today,” he said.
The lucky couple? Karl Kreile and his partner of 38 years, Bodo Mende. They shared their ceremony with roughly 60 guests and an equal number of journalists wanting to capture this momentous event.
Mende, who has been a resident of Schoeneberg for many years says the area “has been shaped by the way it has stood up for gay rights for the best part of a century. The world’s first gay and trans bars started here, and it has survived two world wars and many attempts to eliminate it,” he added, in reference to the thousands of homosexuals living in the district who were murdered by the Nazis. “So it’s fitting we’re here again today to mark this historic moment.”
According to Kreile, it was an “incredible honor” to be the first same-sex marriage in Germany. Both have been active gay rights campaigners for decades. The couple had already celebrated 15 years prior when Germany introduced the possibility for gay and lesbian couples to register partnerships in 2002. This, however, didn’t give same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples who married.
A signal of change in Germany
Although Chancellor Angela Merkal has been open about her opposition to same-sex marriage, she agreed on a surprise free vote in parliament this past June. Whether it was strictly politically motivated or simply an accident is left to interpretation. The bill was widely supported by the public and was passed easily by lawmakers at a margin of 393 in favor and 226 against.
Germany becomes the 14th European country to legalize gay marriage and the 23rd worldwide. Official figures say there were roughly 43,000 registered partnerships in Germany in 2015, many of which are expected to be converted to marriages in the following months.
“This day sends a significant signal, which is that the state’s discrimination of lesbians and gays is finished,” said Joerg Steinert, the head of the Berlin branch of Germany’s lesbian and gay association. “This was long overdue in Germany and so this is a day of great joy.”