Earth & Conservation

Why Is Germany So Divided On Gay Rights?

Despite overwhelming public approval, Germany still prohibits same-sex marriage. So why is the nation so behind on LGBT rights?

Germany is generally considered one of the most progressive nations on the planet, particularly in regard to social and environmental issues. Yet gay marriage is still illegal in the country. Is there a reason? Kind of. Jules Suzdaltsev sorts it out in today's Seeker Daily report.

The reason behind the gay marriage conundrum in Germany has to do with -- feigned surprise! -- politics. The vast majority of German citizens support full and equal rights for LGBT person. According to polls, Germans have the second highest social acceptance of homosexuality in the world (after Spain) at around 87 percent.

The trouble is that, at the moment, Germany's socially progressive public is being led by a socially conservative government. German chancellor Angela Merkel is considered conservative on a number of social issues, including LGBT rights. She's publicly advocated for state "protection" of heterosexual marriage. Her political party, the Christian Democratic Union, is considered center-right and has voted down numerous pro-LGBT bills.

RELATED: Where Is It Illegal To Be Gay?

It's a bitter irony for Germany, which has a dramatic and tragic history with its gay communities. In the days of the Weimar Republic, before the Nazis came to power, Germany was a haven for European homosexuals. The city of Berlin was the locus of an incredible social revolution, in which gay culture was not just tolerated, but openly celebrated -- going all the way back to the late 19th century.

That all changed with the rise of Nazism. Gays were brutally persecuted under the new regime and more than 15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps. Even after the war ended, repressive laws were enforced. It wasn't until 1969 that homosexuality was officially decriminalized.

In modern Germany, things are progressing, albeit slowly. Gay civil unions are common, and in 2013 limited adoption rights were extended to gay couples as long as one parent already had custody of the child. In 2016, Germany's Justice Minister created legislation officially pardoning all those convicted of homosexuality, both during and after Nazi rule.

With a majority of the population in favor of extending gay rights, it's likely that LGBT laws in Germany will be changing, sooner rather than later.

-- Glenn McDonald

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Learn More:

NPR: Between World Wars, Gay Culture Flourished in Berlin

Pew Research Center: The Global Divide on Homosexuality

The Huffington Post: Marriage Equality in Germany 'Not a Goal' for Angela Merkel