BERLIN -- Germany may be one of the more tolerant places on Earth, where lawmakers are poised to broaden rights for gays and lesbians in civil unions. But this week, the debate on gay rights exploded after a conservative politician and a commentator for the country's largest newspaper made controversial comments.
Katherina Reiche of the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) made remarks in support of her party's conservative stances on "traditional family values," similar to the opinions of the anti-gay hate group in the U.S., the Family Research Council. According to Spiegel Online, she said:
"Our future lies in the hands of the family, not in same-sex civil unions," she said, reacting to a recent German debate about rights for gay and lesbian couples in civil unions. "Next to the euro crisis, demographic change is the biggest threat to our prosperity," she added, in a reference to the fact that Germany's low birth rate is expected to cause the population to shrink dramatically in the coming decades. The CDU, she said, "must say clearly that it stands for family, children and marriage."
Those comments sparked an outpouring of protests and a staggering amount of criticism via the Internet, prompting Reiche to take her Facebook page offline on Tuesday. Critics launched a Facebook page called "No Future With Katherine Reiche," getting 6,000 likes within the first day live.
Next came an editorial on Thursday by Franz Josef Wagner, a long-time commentator on Bild, a mass-circulation tabloid in Germany. Wagner, the former Editor in Chief of Bild, wrote a rather homophobic column, stating in part:
"The Justice Ministry would like to make (civil unions) the equal of 'Daddy-Mommy-Baby-Marriages'.... That makes me feel queasy." He continues: "Earlier, homosexuals were sentenced to prison time. What a glorious time for you. Nobody locks you up, you love your partners and you are allowed to love them."
Spiegel, to its credit, put Wagner's opinion in the right perspective by writing:
The suggestions is clear: Be happy with being allowed to live life outside of prison.
In addition to noting that gays in Germany had not only been arrested in times past, but also murdered at concentration camps like Sachsenhausen, Christian Mentz, the editor of Siegessäule, a Berlin magazine marketed to gays and lesbians, also wrote: "I don't just get queasy, I want to barf when I think of gays and lesbians, including those who take the responsibility of raising children, reading your lines."
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