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Gay marriage USA-Germany - Referat

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1. Background information
--> differences between Germany and the USA

2. Facts about the situation in Germany and other European countries

3. Facts about the situation in the USA

4. Personal experiences

5. Classroom discussion

6. Sources

1. USA – Germany
Background information

In Germany, gay people can live together and get the same benefits as married couples. These so called Life Partnerships were authorized by the German Parliament in August 2001.
On the other hand, gay marriage is illegal in almost every state in the USA (there are only a few exceptions). There still are sodomy laws and people who would like to create an amendment saying that marriage is between men and women only, which, of course, would make gay marriage impossible. However, there are also people who support gay marriage, who would like to grant homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals. During the election campaigns, this topic is quite important, especially because the nation is split on the issue.
In this part of our project, I would like to try to explain what we think the reason why the situation in the two countries is so different.
There are moral standards in a society which strongly influence the rights of people and the laws in a state. Therefore, there must be a difference in the way people think in the States and in Germany that sets these standards, especially concerning homosexuality since the laws are not the same.
So, let's take a look at the background of the German and the American way of thinking and their lifestyle, their moral standards.

Although church and state are strongly separated in the USA, the Christian church provides much of the moral standards in society because of its great influence in most parts of America. In Germany, church is not important at all. A friend of mine who was an exchange student in 2001/2002 told me, before i left to America: “ In the USA, people actually go to church every Sunday”, which is something mostly reserved for lonely elderly women in Germany. He continued saying that “ if you told somebody that you believed in God, you would get laughed at in Germany. In the USA it is common to believe in God and the Bible, it is rather unusual if you don't”. The proportion of people believing in God is higher in the USA than in any other industrialized country while in Germany church communities are continually losing members. The church hardly has any influence on public life in Germany, whereas in the States it is a strong factor.
A common argument of the people opposing gay marriage is that they say: “I believe God meant marriage for men and women. How can I support marriage for same-sex couples?”. They feel a tension between religious beliefs and democratic values which would grant equal rights to everyone. Since religion is so important in the USA, many people would support this statement, while in Germany, people would not care about it.
However, it is not the same way all over the USA: The Church does not have the same influence throughout the country, and is divided itself.
One part of the country, the conservatives, say that the Bible implies that marriage was designed by God as the “primary building block for the good of society,” and that marriage was exclusively designed to be heterosexual. Also, the Bible says “the marriage bed is to be kept pure from all forms of immorality”, implying that marriage should be free from the “immorality” of homosexual intercourse. They also think that homosexuality is a very “serious, damaging sin”, both to individuals and their society as a whole since it is a sin against God's created natural order. They are scared that churches would be forced to perform homosexual marriage and by doing that condoning sin.
On the other side, there are the more liberal church communities which support gay marriage. They say that there should be “liberty for all”, as well as fairness and equality. They believe that God loves everyone, “even” homosexuals. Homosexuality might be a sin but Jesus died for sins, thus gay marriage should be alright. They interpret the Bible differently and say that there is no point where it states that gay marriage is wrong.
As we see, there is one part trying to make people accept the fact, that there are gay people and that they should have the same rights, whereas the other part of the church strongly opposes gay people and therefore gay marriage. That is why the nation is split on the topic, there is only “yes” or “no”, only a small portion of people who take the middle. Many people have been taught during their childhood that homosexual behavior is condemned by God, their religion, and even the society as unnatural and morally degenerate which makes it hard for people to change their mind. They can't just switch sides because their views appear to be fixed. However, more and more people tend to say that the American Constitution grants same rights to everyone, while at the same time, more and more people tend to say that homosexuality is bad. It is hard to find a solution in the USA because of the different view from one of the most important parts in American people's lives: religion.

In Germany, the government found a solution without making a big deal out of the topic. They do not allow gay marriage, but instead they have life-partnerships. By doing this, the church can't claim that marriage is not the same thing any more, while gay people can't complain about a lack of rights any more. However, this might not have been the best solution either. For example, if there was a religious homosexual, he would likely want to get married, yet he would be denied the right to do so because of this law.
The reasons for the fact that Germany seems to be more open to homosexuals may be found in the history of the country, especially the Nazi-era. We have already seen that religion does not have a great influence in Germany. Instead, German people's thoughts are strongly influenced by the country's past experiences in such areas.
To explain those things we need to take quite a step back into history: First of all, the word “homosexuality” was originally coined in Germany. It was a great area of study, but also defined as a sickness or disease.
In 1870, the government decided to create the “Paragraph 175” which is the most important part in German law books concerning gay people. It was referring to men only, prohibiting sex between gay people. If you got caught, you could be sent to court. After a while, people forgot about the paragraph because they became more open towards homosexuals. However, the paragraph remained in the books which influenced history very strongly. The Nazis rewrote and reinterpreted §175 in 1935. Now, about everything and everyone that was connected with homosexuality, could be punished. It was the strongest discrimination of gay people in Germany ever. The Nazis requested and received lists of known homosexuals from the police. Additionally, citizens were encouraged to announce people that they suspected to be gay. About 100,000 men were arrested and sent to concentration camps where they were used for testing medicines. The Nazis viewed homosexuals as mentally and physically degenerate and considered them to be harmful to Germany, but some Nazis believed that gays could be “cured” if they worked hardly which is why many of them died really fast.
When the Nazi era was over the situation should have changed, but it didn't.
Many of the arrested gay men remained in prison. The Allies argued that these men were truly criminals and thus legitimately held. There is a very interesting example of a man who had been arrested by the Nazis and was happy to hear about the end of World War 2. However, the end of the war didn't help him too much because he had to stay in prison for 5 more years. Why? Well, he got arrested and was supposed to be in prison for 8 years. He spent 3 years in prison and 5 years in a concentration camp. The Allies now argued that the concentration camp was no prison and since he should have been in prison for 8 years he had to go back there.
The Nazi version of §175 was repealed in East Germany in 1967, and in West Germany in 1969. The whole Paragraph was totally repealed in 1994.
It took some time until Germans finally realized that gay people are just normal, that they should be accepted in society. Today, the situation is quite different. Gay people are not totally accepted, but at least not discriminated. There are politicians who are openly gay. Today, there is also the “Christopher Street Day”, a day of gay pride in which about 400,000 people participate each year.
Looking at the historical background of Germany it is obvious why the German way of thinking is so different from the American. Germans remember the situation in World War 2, there is a generation which grew up after the Nazi time. Those people can look at that time differently, with some distance, and they learn from it. Hardly anybody wants something like that to happen again, they look for things they can improve, they try to integrate minorities. They just do the opposite things as the Nazis. Germans learned from that time, the younger people grew up being taught about tolerating people, thus they are more open to people who are just different.
In addition, Germans can't be against homosexuals, just as they can't be against foreigners, because other countries would think that they are going back to the thoughts they had 70 years ago.

In conclusion, the difference between the American and German views on gay rights is due to the difference in overall culture. The two countries have developed their forms of thinking from different sources. One country is strongly influenced by the religious affiliation that most of its population adheres to. The other derives its solutions from past experiences and mistakes. However, homosexuals in both of these countries are neither completely tolerated nor completely intolerated and must be kept in consideration. Neither country can generalize what is occurring in another country without making some form of false stereotype. There are all kinds of people everywhere around the world, so the population of a single country should never be described under a single opinion, as it is composed of a multitude of separate beliefs and morals.

To Americans religion is more important as to Germans
= very important
= fairly important
= not important
= religion is important (Germany as comparison)

2. Same-sex marriage in Europe

Legal acknowledgement same-sex partnership in Europe


Civil marriage

Registered Partnership (almost the same rights and obligations as marriage)

Registered Partnership (smaller obligation than marriage)

Complete equalisation with different-sexual informal not-conjugal partnerships

Punctual equalisation with different-sexual informal not-conjugal partnerships

No legal acknowledgment


In June 1987 Denmark was the first country in the world that gave same-sex couples the right to registered partnerships. These registered partnerships, which are also referred to as ,,civil unions”, have almost the same qualities, rights and responsibilities as a marriage.
Since August 2001 Germany recognizes a kind of civil union for same-sex couples called ,,Eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft” ( literally “registered life partnership”), which grant same-sex couples almost the same rights as marriage.
These rights allow the couples to register their partnership and also divorce it by the same rules as ordinary marriages, such as one partner providing divisions for the other as part of the divorce agreement.

The Civil Union includes also the following rights:
- hospital visitation rights for couples
- granted German resident status for a foreign partner
- same-sex couples have the identical status to married couples for purposes of tendency, inheritance, pensions such as health insurance.
- the couples are allowed to adopt their partners biological child/ren if the other parent of the child/ren agrees, but they are not allows to adopt other children.

The Civil Union and the Church:
Registered partnership is by civil ceremony only. The German state church has yet to decide how to handle the issue, but it is not completely forbidden. Some priests perform blessings for of gay couples , and this is accepted by the church.

The Netherlands
In April 2001 marriage of same-sex couples was introduced in the law of the Netherlands. Before that gay couples had the right to have registered partnerships since the beginning of 1998.
Gay activists had asked the government to give the same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex marriages. Parliament decided in to create a special commission,which was to investigate the possibility of same-sex marriage. At the moment the Christian democrats for the first time since the introduction of full democracy weren’t part of the ruling coalition. The special commission finished its work and concludes that civil marriage should be opened up. After the elections of 1998, the government promised to tackle the issue. In September the final legislation drafted was debated in parliament.

The marriage bill had a majority of 109 against 33 voters on the Lower House of Parliament. The Upper House approved the bill on December 19,2000.

The main article in the Act changed article 1:30 in the existing marriage law :
A marriage can be contracted by two people of different or same sex.

The Church and Gay Marriage:
There are strong opinions of the introduction of the same-sex marriage in the church. The parliament decided that it is to be decided by every church individually whether they want to bless other relationships for the face of god.

The laws for adoption for same-sex marriages are the same as in Germany besides that they are allowed to adopt foreign children. This is not allowed in Germany.

3. Gay Marriage Laws in the United States of America

Domestic partner laws have been enacted in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Hawaii, Vermont and the District of Columbia. The benefits of these laws vary; some offer access to family health insurance, others offer co-parenting rights. These benefits are limited to the residents of the state. A family that moves out of these states immediately loses the protections.
In the last couple of years, anti-gay marriage bills were introduced in 49 states. They usually fall into three groups:
1. “Laws that say same-sex marriages are "null and void" or that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”
2. “Laws that say recognition of a same-sex marriage from another state is prohibited.”
3. “Laws that say recognition of any type of out-of-state marriage is allowed only if the couple could have married in the state itself.”
Before January 1998, bills banning same-sex marriage were blocked in 24 states; 25 states signed them into law. Below is a list of these states.
States that Passed Anti-gay Marriage Laws (25): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia
States that Blocked Anti-Gay Marriage Bills (24): Alabama, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
The Vermont legislature passed the Vermont Civil Union law, which went into effect on July 1, 2000. This law doesn't legalize same-sex marriages. However, it does provide gay and lesbian couples with many of the same advantages reserved for married people.

1. use of family laws such as annulment, divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, domestic violence, adoption and property division
2. the right to sue for wrongful death, loss of consortium and any other tort or law related to spousal relationships
3. medical rights such as hospital visitation, notification and durable power of attorney
4. family leave benefits
5. joint state tax filing, and
6. property inheritance without a will.

These rights apply only to couples that actually live in Vermont. And even for Vermont residents, this new civil union law does not provide same-sex couples with rights and benefits provided by federal law. Let’s give some examples: A same-sex couple cannot take advantage of Social Security benefits, immigration privileges and the marriage exemption to federal estate tax.
In the United States there are at least some states were same-sex couples rights come near the rights for “normal” couples, but there is no standardized law for the entire US. The laws and rights vary from state to state. Only one thing is the same in every single state of the US: Gay marriage is not seen as a regular civil marriage between a man ans a women.

4. Personal Experiences
1.I spend a year in the United States of America, or to be more exact in Idaho. Idaho is a very conservative state with a majority of 98% Republican voters.
2.One of my host families was strongly against gay marriage. Their argument was that God said a marriage would be between a man and a woman. They took the bible very literal. They also thought that people are gay have some contact to the devil. One of the priest in church once said:”If you are gay you need to change, otherwise you will go to hell.”
3.3.My other host family said that it was okay to be gay, but they did not support gay marriage, because of the same reason. They were not as conservative as the other family, but still thought a marriage is between a man and a woman, just because a marriage is defined as that. In their eyes a gay person was not bad or doomed to hell, but just different.

I spent a year in New York State. The farm I stayed at was in a very small town where people usually are some kind of conservative. My hostfamily did not oppose gay people, as long as they did not get in touch with them. Not getting in touch included not seeing them on tv, not seeing them when going downtown, not noticing them at all. I guess, they meant getting in touch as “I don't want them to exist”. I talked to my youngest hostbrother (21 at that point) about his thoughts on the topic. He told me that he did not like gay people too much and that he would oppose granting them equal rights. The idea of two homosexuals made him sick, he didn't like talking about the topic too much. After these experiences I thought that my hostfamily was opposing gay people. However, when we started working on our project, I told my hostbrother about it. He now told me that he has changed his mind because of some people he met and because of what I told him. Now, he thinks that gay people should have equal rights and benefits. He still thinks, that they should not be able to get married in Church though. In his opinion, the German solution works out pretty well, although he thinks that the German government just took the easiest way trying not to get confronted with the topic. He sent me an evaluation of a survey which he had found on the internet, trying to prove that he was not the only one who has changed his mind. In this table, we see that there is a big change of how people think.

5. Classroom discussion

After our presentation we would like to have a classroom discussion on our topic. We've decided to split up the course into two groups, one opposing and one in favor of gay marriage. There will be members in the groups who will not support the side that they have to argue for which will make it harder for them.
We (Tom, Katrin, Ulrike) are political leaders of The state of Nevada. We are not sure if we should legalize gay marriage or not, thus we need those two groups to tell us what they think about it. They will get 5-10 minutes to prepare the presentation of their position and their arguments and to chose 3-4 speakers. One of the groups state its thesis, the other one will have to say why they oppose it and what they think about the topic. If the speakers don't know what to say, the other group members are supposed to help them out.
In the end, the three of us will decide who had the better arguments, who found the better way of presenting them and who could convince us that their opinion was the right one.

6. Sources

1. http://www.lsvd.de/
2. http://www.hrc.com
3. http://www.actwin.com/eatonohio/gay/world.htm
4. http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/germany.html
5. http://christianity.about.com/od/adultchristianity/a/dontamend.htm
6. http://www.bidstrup.com/marriage.htm
7. http://www.gayweddings.com/faq.html
8. http://www.buddybuddy.com/toc-cont.html
9. http://archive.aclu.org/issues/gay/gaymar.html

map Europe : http://www.rklambda.at/Europakarten/partnerschaften.htm
map USA: http://www.eccopac.org/
charts: www.lava.net/~hcssc/ CongressGodVote.html
table: funferal.org/ mt-archive/2003_07.html
Dieses Referat wurde eingesandt vom User: viccy

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