Why Hasn’t Marriage Equality Come To Germany?

The same Pew survey that showed the French to be so accepting of extramarital affairs also offered a fascinating overview of global attitudes toward homosexuality. One reader’s take-away is that public support for gay people doesn’t always translate into gay rights:

Only 8 percent of respondents in Germany, my home country, find homosexuality “morally unacceptable,” while 37 percent of Americans hold that view. I would have guessed that there was a significant difference between Western European countries and the US, but I would not have expected the difference to be so stark.

So considering those numbers, you’d think we’d have marriage equality in Germany. We don’t. We have registered partnerships, a form of civil unions, and most rights coming with them had to be fought for in the courts in recent years. The political left is for marriage equality. Standing in the way of enacting it in parliament are Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Before last year’s elections, Merkel was put on the spot by a gay voter in a televised town hall forum asking for adoption rights for gay couples. Merkel had to explain her opposition and she was clearly uncomfortable having to do so . One wonders if her opposition is heartfelt or merely a nod to her party’s religiously conservative wing.

The fact that whether homosexuality is viewed as morally acceptable or not does not necessarily go hand in hand with marriage equality is quite evident when looking at other countries.

Spain has marriage equality (6 percent believe homosexuality to be morally unacceptable); Italy does not (19 percent). Parts of Britain have marriage equality (17 percent); Australia does not (18 percent). Indeed, South Africa has had marriage equality (mandated by the country’s supreme court), and still 62 percent find homosexuality morally unacceptable.

Apart from marriage equality, these numbers could be an explanation for why it’s so easy to stir up anti-gay feelings in some countries such as Uganda. In Uganda, homosexuality (93 percent) trumps abortion (88 percent), extramarital affairs and gambling (80 percent each), premarital sex (77 percent), and divorce (76 percent) as the most morally unacceptable. Looking at some other African countries such as Kenya (88 percent) and Nigeria (85 percent), where this is also the case, it’s not at all surprising that politicians in some of these countries are using anti-gay laws in an apparent effort to redirect any animus away from them to a vulnerable minority.

That negative feelings about homosexuality don’t automatically have to lead to an anti-gay witch hunt is apparent when you look at the country where homosexuality is almost universally seen as morally unacceptable (98 percent): Ghana. Of the four countries (Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana), Ghana is far and away the most democratic. While homosexual acts are still illegal there and it’s unlikely to change in the coming years, there don’t seem to be any measures on the horizon like those enacted in Uganda and Nigeria. Quite to the contrary, according to this report.