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Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights

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A flag flies during the gay pride Christopher Street Day fest in Berlin. Photo: DPA.
08:39 CEST+02:00
Germany lags behind many of its western counterparts when it comes to gay rights, still maintaining tighter restrictions. As the US Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of gay marriage, The Local looks at LGBT rights in Germany.
1. Gay marriage is still not legal
A civil union in Germany. Photo: DPA.

Same-sex couples may enter into a civil union, which entails many of the same rights as a heterosexual marriage, but many rights have been won within individual court cases rather than by top-down legislation.

This makes Germany stand out when compared to its western European allies who have passed same-sex marriage legislation, like France and the United Kingdom.

Most of Germany’s border states have also legalized gay marriage, such as the Netherlands which passed same-sex marriage legislation nearly 15 years ago, making it the first country in the world to do so.

2. Raising a kid together can be tricky

Photo: Shutterstock.

Germany has allowed stepchild adoption among same-sex partners since 2005, meaning if one person already has a biological child, the other partner may adopt the child, but the two may not adopt a child together.

Since a 2013 constitutional court ruling, same-sex partners may also adopt a child after their partner has already adopted the child, in what is called ‘successive adoption’. Still, many have criticized the court decision because it means that couples still cannot jointly adopt.

Again, Germany falls behind in this regard. The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Spain, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland all allow same-sex couples to adopt children together.

3. Politicians may be less tolerant than the public

While polls have shown the German public to be quite tolerant of homosexuality, gay marriage proponents have harshly criticized the two major conservative parties in the Bundestag (German parliament) for being resistant to legalization.

One Green party politician recently said the parties had fallen behind mainstream public opinion.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) have continued to block same-sex marriage bills proposed by opposition parties.

Merkel once told Bild newspaper that she did not favour giving gay couples the same tax rights as heterosexual ones because the constitution "sees marriage directly linked to the family and both are under the special protection of the state".

But Germany actually came in second, just behind Spain, in the most recent Pew Research Center study in 2013 on tolerance of homosexuality, with 87 percent of respondents saying they agreed that homosexuality should be accepted in society.

Only 60 percent of US respondents said "yes" to the same statement.

In another study released earlier this month, the United States was rated slightly more tolerant towards LGBT people than Germany.

In Germany, 70 percent of respondents answered “yes” to the question: 'Is the city or area where you live a good place or not a good place to live for gay or lesbian people? Seventy-one percent of American respondents said “yes”.'

This placed Germany at 16th place for LGBT tolerance worldwide.

4. Gender “X” and transgender rightsPhoto: Shutterstock.

Germany became one of the first countries in the world in 2013 to provide a third gender option when parents first fill out a birth certificate for their intersex child. Before, parents had to decide within a week of birth whether their child was male or female and to register them as such.

Still, the third box “X”, alongside male and female, is not an officially recognized third gender and is instead intended specifically for intesex-born children or hermaphrodites - people born with gender-indeterminate bodies. The state expects them to ultimately live their lives as male or female in the future.

Up until as recently as 2011, people seeking to legally change their sex needed to show that they had undergone surgery to become infertile as well as to make them look significantly like the sex with which they identify.

Though such surgery is no longer required, people must still show proof of a medical diagnosis and have lived for at least three years as their identified sex.

5. Donating blood is bannedPhoto: DPA.

The US Food and Drug Administration announced a major decision in December to reverse its lifetime ban on gay men donating blood due to advanced screening methods, though men who have had sex with another man in the past 12 months will still be barred from donating.

In Germany men who have sex with other men are still indefinitely banned from donating blood, though the German Medical Association has called for the policies to be changed. Some federal states have also called for a lifting of the ban.

But a European Court of Justice ruling on Wednesday may offer an opportunity for change. The court said that a ban is only justified if there are no other available screening methods to protect blood recipients.

Germany's Lesbian and Gay Assosiation said in a statement that the ruling implies that a general ban on gay men is unjustified.

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