German president hopes to follow Ireland on marriage equality

Joachim Gauck calls for ‘stronger debate’ on same-sex marriage in Berlin

German president Joachim Gauck said backing marriage equality was “not a vote against, but rather for something”. Photograph: Wolfgang Kumm/EPA

German president Joachim Gauck has praised Ireland's "sincere" debate on marriage equality, calling on Germany to follow suit.

In a clear nod at a reticent Chancellor Angela Merkel, Mr Gauck said backing marriage equality was "not a vote against, but rather for something.

"I thus hope that Germany can also have a stronger debate in which people are not overwhelmed by a feeling that equality between themselves and others is taking something away from them or posing a threat to their own way of life," he said, ahead of a three-day State visit to Ireland, beginning on Monday.

“It should be made clearer that enabling homosexual people who wish to live in a legally binding partnership . . . gives them the chance to live a life of equal value in love and partnership.”


Civil partnership

Germany introduced civil partnerships for gay couples in 2001, but demands to go further have followed the passage of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage and subsequent US supreme court ruling that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional.

Dr Merkel refuses to touch the issue, telling The Irish Times last month there was no majority for it in her ruling Christian Democratic Union party.

A recent YouGov opinion poll published in Germany suggested some two-thirds of Germans support marriage equality – and 57 per cent of CDU voters.

During his three-day visit Mr Gauck, accompanied by his partner, Daniela Schadt, will meet President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and visit both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Mr Gauck will be awarded an honorary doctorate at NUI Galway and visit its Irish centre for human rights.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin