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Germany, 15th Western European country to embrace equal marriage

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven

Refocus by Gerard Veldhoven

Some view same-sex marriage as any other legal union – as of no great importance or consequence. Aside from a legal standpoint, many couples just love the idea of being joined together under civil law, or have a wedding in a religious setting. Either way, we all have a choice to enter in some sort of legal union.

But world-wide, not quite so. Marriage between a man and a woman has been in existence for centuries and “certified” them to produce off-spring, giving them the right to bring children into this world, and so the population increases. Then, slowly, but surely, another section of our world population demanded they would love the idea of marriage, namely, same-sex couples.

Not an easy task as opposition mounted rapidly, especially in conservative circles such as religious organizations and far-right political thinkers, among others.

Government all over the world quickly reacted negatively to the idea. A few, especially in Europe, seemed more than ready to accommodate gay couples and changed the marriage laws. The first was The Netherlands in 2001, a small, but influential nation known for its tolerant views, then Norway, Sweden and others soon followed.

Canada became the fifth country to alter its marriage laws in 2005 after each province got into the fray and so gay couples were given the choice to marry or simply set up housekeeping without the marriage licence.

Germany is the latest country to join the 27 nations where same-sex marriage has been legalized. Surprisingly, this country, which has the largest population in Western Europe, was a late bloomer in allowing gay couples to marry. Bodo Mende and Karl Kreile, tied the knot on Oct. 1 after 38 years together.

Kreile, 59, said, “We’ve campaigned actively for decades for the state to recognize us as equals and finally we are able to celebrate a day we once thought may never come in our lifetimes.” Mende, 60, echoed that feeling and said, “It was a great honour.”

I can attest to that feeling as I was married to my late partner in 2004 in Nova Scotia and we were the first to be married in a civil and very public ceremony before television cameras in this province. The choice was ours, after having lived together for 30 years. Just to realize that the choice is available is a step towards equality.

There are 195 countries in our world with only 27 nations recognizing equal marriage. That leaves the vast majority out of the loop and, with most, same-sex marriage will never see the light of day. The United States, a self-proclaimed modern society, changed the marriage laws in 2015, 10 years after Canada.

Far-right religious organizations as well as mainstream denominations have indicated strong opposition to the change in many countries, but governments ignored the rhetoric and decided to embrace equal marriage.

As human beings we all deserve the same opportunities, including to bond with whomever we choose to love. Interference of that amounts to discrimination and control of our future. No one deserves to be chastised for loving another. Our individual happiness and our ability to live in a peaceful, loving relationship are paramount. To marry or not, it is a personal choice.

Comments and information: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

 

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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