These men have become the first gay couple to marry in Germany, after gay marriage was made legal under a new law.
The gay couple, Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende, exchanged their vows at the town hall in Schöneberg, Berlin.
It took them 38 years after their first kiss to finally get married. Until now, gay and lesbian couples in Germany could only enter into registered partnerships that gave them fewer legal rights than married heterosexual couples.
Karl said: “This is an emotional moment with great symbolism. The transition to the term ‘marriage’ shows that the German state recognizes us as real equals.”
Karl, 59, and his partner, Bodo, 60, have been campaigning for gay rights in Germany since meeting in 1979 in West Berlin. The city at that time was an attraction for people looking to escape the political and social constraints on both sides of a divided Germany.
Kreile remembered the ‘shame’ he felt in 1992, when he and Mende marched into a registry office and asked to be married, only to be politely turned away. The couple registered their civil partnership 10 years later, after Germany became one of the first countries to allow such civil unions.
Germany has allowed same-sex partners to enter into registered partnerships since 2001. But these did not give couples the same status in German law as marriage. As other countries began to legalize gay marriages, Germany fell behind due to the opposition by Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel has been the chancellor for 12 years and recently won her 4th term, agreeing to let parliament hold a free vote on gay marriage in June. This happened three months before a national election.
She voted against gay marriage herself, but a majority of lawmakers voted in favor of it. It made Germany the 15th country in Europe to allow same-sex couples to marry.
However, Karl believes that LGBT rights can’t be taken for granted anywhere. He mentions the recent crackdowns on gay people in Poland, Turkey and Russia as evidence for that.
But under the new law in Germany, married homosexual couples will have the same rights as married heterosexual couples. They will now be allowed to adopt children as well. According to sources, the first such adoption is set to take place in Berlin on October 4, 2017.
However, a few hurdles still remain. The computer systems that are used to record marriages in Germany currently requires one partner to be registered as the man, the other as the woman. Kreile and Mende haven’t made up their minds on who will be which. According to officials, the fields can’t be changed even after the system is upgraded next year.
Although, some local authorities in Germany have enthusiastically embraced the prospect of gay marriage. They even decided to open their registry offices on a Sunday to conduct and celebrate the first gay and lesbian weddings.
Among them are the northern city of Hamburg and the Berlin district of Schoeneberg. It has been the center of gay life in the German capital for more than a century!