21st Century To Germany, Do You Read? Part I

21st Century To Germany, Do You Read? Part I


Why can't we have one marriage law for everyone, regardless of gender? Dear politicians: Please grow up.

Two-class Marriage Law

So today my new husband and I went to the tax office to switch to the - more beneficial - tax classes for married people. While we waited we had a look at the forms lying around, and noticed that in fact, all of them that referred to married couples in some way used the legal term for heterosexual partners, but homosexual partnerships never occurred anywhere on those forms. Once I got home I had a closer look at the actual laws concerning gay marriage - it's not even called "marriage" in German law, the legal term translates to "life partnership". It's just ridiculous. Gay people who want to get their partnership recognised before the law basically get all the obligations to support their partner and the like, but they get taxed as if they were single - the "married couple" tax classes are reserved for heterosexual couples. At least inheritance law treats them somewhat equally. Incidentally, there's a law that allows minors to get married if their partner is of age and their parents or guardians consent, but no such law for life partnerships. Also, transgendered people who were married before are automatically divorced when their gender is legally changed, no matter whether or not their spouse wants to stay in the relationship - I suppose they get to downgrade to life partnership if they so choose. Links all go to the respective laws, so they're in German - sorry to anyone who doesn't read the language, I couldn't find an official translation.

It's not like this was news to me (well, the bit about the inheritance law was), and I'm aware the marriage thing is far from the only problem gay and bi people face in German society, but still, this second-class gay "marriage" thing is a bloody joke, a half-assed non-attempt that reeks of But Not Too Equal. Some of our conservative politicians (*cough* Christian-Democratic Union) act like it's the end of the world if gay couples get to get married for real and have the same (tax and other) benefits. They still fear this to endanger the institution of marriage. Well, they do get their backup from both the last and the current Pope, but even so, how about not listening to a backwards, intolerant religious institution like the Catholic Church as a whole, but looking at the actual reality and realising that heterosexuals aren't actually all that special? They go on about how heterosexual partnership should have a special role because the nuclear family needs to be protected, you need a man and a woman to reproduce and the like. So if that's really your issue: Why not divorce all heterosexual couples who can't have children, have chosen not to have children, or are too old to have children once those they did have are grown up? Since even German law now allows adopted children of gay partners to be adopted by their life partner, too (it used to be only biological children), it seems someone must've gotten the memo that two people of the same gender can very well raise a child, even though as of today they can't both be the biological parents. Besides, Canada, France and the USian states who have gay marriage still have a functional society...

Problem is, this is about privilege. People generally want to protect what they've got, and if now a whole new group of people are allowed to do something they used to be able to do exclusively, they're losing their privilege over them, even if they do not actually lose anything else. Equal marriage laws for gay couples do not take anything else away from heterosexual couples. It's not fair, or just, or good in my opinion, but apparently to many people, losing an advantage they had over others does feel like a punishment. Still, I think our politicians need to stop acting like little kids who want to be the only one in the playground with that cool toy, grow the hell up and ditch this bullshit in favour of equal laws for everyone. Sure, changing a law is not going to make structural discrimination go away, just as allowing women to vote and, as of 1977, sign an employment contract without getting their husband's written consent first didn't make sexism go away. It's a step in the right direction though, and in my opinion, way overdue.

Written by Nadja Deininger ().