First gay ‘wedding’ happens in Berlin Protestant church

A gay couple will make history as they become the first homosexual couple to be ‘married’ in a Protestant church in Berlin on Friday, reports the Berliner Zeitung.

First gay ‘wedding’ happens in Berlin Protestant church
Photo: DPA

Having been together for fourteen years, civil partners Sven Kretschmer and Tim Kretschmer-Schmidt are finally going to get ‘married’, at least in the eyes of the Protestant church.

Although civil partnerships are permitted under the Life Partnership Law of 2001, gay marriage is currently not recognized in Germany.

In 2002, the Protestant church made it possible for gay couples to receive a blessing.

However, the “classical” church marriage service remained a privilege reserved for heterosexual couples only.

Recently though, the Synods in the Rhineland, Hesse-Nassau, and Baden pioneered further change when they all agreed to give same-sex civil partners exactly the same ceremony as heterosexual married couples.

Following in their footsteps, the Synod of the Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian-Upper-Lusatia (EKBO) voted 91 to 10 to grant gay couples equality with heterosexual couples in April this year.

In Protestant churches in Berlin, gay couples are now permitted to get married in church and have their names put on the marriage register along with heterosexual couples.

However, priests who object to gay marriage are not obliged to carry out the marriage ceremony. In this case, the couple is referred to another priest who will marry them.

The change is yet to be accepted nationwide. Gay couples are not given the same rights as heterosexual couples in Protestant churches in Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt. However, they are allowed to receive a blessing.

The church in Württemberg goes even further and does not even permit gay couples to receive a blessing.

Today marks a “very important step” for the Protestant church

Pastors Justus Münster and Eric Haußmann, who are carrying out the ceremony today, see no reason why gay marriage should not be allowed.

“When the couple came to see me and asked me to marry them […] I obviously said yes,” Münster, who is the EKBO’s representative for emergency pastoral care in Berlin, told the Berliner Zeitung.

“We must no longer take into account any artificially constructed differences in our marriage services – we can now officially marry people who want to be connected and to stand by each other. That is a very important step, a very significant moment,” Haußmann told the Berlin daily.

“The church has gone back to its roots. Two people say that they want to love each other and that they will care for each other. We bless this promise,” he goes on to add.

Catholic church still rejects gay marriage

The Catholic church believes that there is Biblical evidence to suggest that gay marriage cannot be justified. Leviticus 20:13 states, “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”

The Pope re-emphasised the Catholic church’s rejection of gay marriage in a letter entitled “Amoris Laetitia – about familial love” which he presented to the Vatican in April this year.

In addition, he claimed that there is no “fundamental basis” for the equality of civil partnerships with heterosexual marriages in God’s plan.

However, people deserve respect regardless of their sexual orientation, he went on to assert.

Although the official stance of the Catholic church in Germany is that gay marriage should not be carried out in churches, this opinion is not held by all Catholics.

In a survey conducted by YouGov in January this year, 68% of German Catholics said that they would support the legalisation of gay marriage.


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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.