23 Apr 2010

Would protecting sexual minorities hinder integration of Muslims?

Germany’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex & gender, race, mother tongue, country or culture of origin, disability, religion and religious or political opinion. Since a few years, activist tried to add “sexual identity” to the list to further combat discrimination of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Germany. After several high-ranking politicians and even a few states supported the measure, the parliament took up the debate and asked nine experts to present their findings on possible implications of the proposed law.

The voiced concerns were altogether opposing and are furthermore nothing short of the ridiculousness we are used to hear from right-wing conservatives in the US:

Winfried Kluth from the University Halle-Wittenberg argued that protecting LGBTs “would prevent Muslim immigrants from accepting our constitution”. Neutralising involved declaring that one believes in the German constitution. Mr Kluths argument implies demanding the acceptance of gender equality from German Muslims is ok, but to not discriminate gays would be too much to ask for. It would be more important to make it easy for new German citizens to identify with the constitution than promoting acceptance of LGBTs.

Professor Bernd Grzeszick form the University of Heidelberg said the proposed addition to the constitution would lead to the legalisation of polygamy because protecting “bisexuality and other forms of multiple-partner unions” could imply the legalisation of bigamy in the least.

In the parliamentary hearing, several of the appointed experts seemed to warn of the dangers of paedophilia approaching Germany. Klaus Gärditz of University of Bonn argued that “paedophilia, sodomy and sadomasochism” could be interpreted as one of these sexual identities.

The measure was proposed by the socialist party (SPD), the Greens and Leftist Coalition (Linkspartei). Germany’s most outspoken gay politician, Volker Beck (Greens) said: “The current government wants to continue to discriminate and treat LGBTs as second-class citizens. Our constitution protects minorities from arbitrary decisions of a majority and gays and lesbians should have this protection as well.”

At the current situation it seems unlikely that the change will happen. Both coalition parties, Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Liberal Democrats (FDP) that make up the current government reject the measure. A two-third majority is needed in the parliament to change the constitution.

The Liberals usually claim to be gay-friendly, but are known to put their business-emphasis first as they opposed many regulations, including non-discrimination acts, to be “forced upon the economy”. Although Germany’s current foreign minister Guido Westerwelle is confidently out gay (See Germany: New government, new hope?), his party is yet to prove their true commitment to gay rights.