Germany and Marriage Equality: Surprise Movement!

June 28, 2017 in General

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are set to argue for a Bundestag vote this week to legalise LGBT civil marriage equality, capitalising on a welcome change of mind from centre-right CDU/CSU Chancellor Angela Merkel three months before the next German federal election in September 2017. Marriage equality has become a frontline German federal election subject after Merkel’s three potential coalition partners, including her current Social Democrat ‘grand coalition’ partner, made it a precondition for establishing any post-election coalition, which has essentially precipitated the change of heart.

German women’s magazine Brigitte hosted a symposium on Tuesday 27 June. At this meeting, Merkel said she realised that other German parties supported moving ahead with marriage equality and would allow a free conscience vote on the issue.

“I would like to lead the discussion more into a situation where it is a question of conscience rather than something I push through with a majority vote.” While the move could antagonise some conservative Catholic CDU/CSU voters, their other voter blocs favour change. However, Merkel herself has previously argued against same-sex marriage. After Merkel signalled her change of direction, SPD leader Martin Schulz (June 27) said his party would now argue for a vote in the Bundestag in the final week of June, before the start of the German parliamentary summer recess.

“I hope our colleagues in the conservatives will co-operate,” he said, raising the pressure on his possible centre-right partners – who would prefer a vote after the election. Schulz needs to make up ground for his flagging Social Democrats centre-left party in the election race and has escalated his criticism of Ms Merkel, but he made clear he would not end the grand coalition. In response, Merkel’s CDU/CSU colleagues accused him of irresponsible politics .”That is a breach of trust,” said Volker Kauder, Bundestag leader of the CDU/CSU bloc in parliament, adding the Social Democrat’s behaviour on such a sensitive topic showed it was “not suited to government”.

Howrver, given electorate majority overall support among Germans for marriage equality, any marriage equality legislative reform would likely get easy approval in the Bundestag if the Christian Democrats could vote according to their conscience and not deal with party line pressure from the whip. Polls put Merkel’s conservatives 10-15 points ahead of the Social Democrats, but given Germany’s MMP electoral system, they will lack an overall parliamentary majority in the Bundestag The SPD, “classical liberal” Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens have made marriage equality, a step up from same-sex civil unions, which were established in 2001, a precondition for the formation of any coalition.

The LSVD German LGBTI lobby group welcomed Merkel’s change of position while describing it as a rearguard move:

“After 15 years of an ideological blockade .. social pressure and the commitments of other parties have made an impact,” LSVD lobby president Axel Hochrein said. “Equal rights for all people is part of our constitution,” he concluded. If Germany moves forward, Austria and Switzerland may not be far behind.

Recommended:

Madeline Chambers: “Germany set for vote on gay marriage” Stuff.co.nz: 28.06.2017: https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/europe/94156721/germany-set-for-vote-on-gay-marriage-after-angela-merkel-softens-stance