Merkel lookalike and Ireland’s marriage vote unlikely bedfellows

New magazine aimed at German lesbians starts campaign

Ireland and an Angela Merkel lookalike are unlikely allies in a guerilla marketing campaign for "Straight", a new magazine aimed at German lesbians.

A black-and-white video promoting the magazine shows a woman who looks remarkably like Angela Merkel dressing herself after what looks like a hotel-room rendezvous with a woman.

As “Angela Merkel” sits on a bed, clipping on her necklace, a radio newsreader announces the Yes result in Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum.

In a second scene, the radio announcer says the Irish vote marks the “change of an era”: “until 1993 homosexuality was punishable by law.” At the news “Merkel” shakes her head as she stares out a window. Then a woman appears, wearing only a blouse, to embrace her tenderly from behind.

Germany introduced civil partnership legislation for same-sex couples in 2001, and has closed several legal gaps to full marriage since then. Despite opinion polls showing a majority of Germans in favour of following in Ireland's footsteps on marriage equality, the chancellor has said she has "personal difficulty" with such a step.

Such a step would bring political difficulties, too. Social conservatives in her ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are unlikely to welcome another major policy shift after already accepting, under protest, the abolition of nuclear power and compulsory military service.

Dr Merkel's stance on marriage equality has been criticised by her Social Democratic Party (SPD) junior coalition partner as well as the opposition Greens. Even German president Joachim Gauck has waded into the debate, praising Ireland's "sincere" debate and subsequent embrace of marriage equality debate and calling on Germany to follow.

Ahead of a three-day state visit to Ireland last week, in a clear swipe at the reticent Dr Merkel, he said backing marriage equality was “not a vote against but rather for something”.

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

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

The online video advertisement has generated huge free publicity for “Straight” magazine. The debut issues tackles Germany’s marriage equality debate, revived thanks to the Irish vote. Other features include the ins and outs of sperm donations and a beginner’s guide to bondage.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin