Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, December 12, 2016 

©2016 Boris Dittrich for Human Rights Watch

“Everyone is talking about preserving our values these days….Among those values is not only the protection of marriage and family, but also equal rights for different kind of relationships,” Thomas Oppermann, the head of the Socialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (SPD) in German Parliament said in an interview in Der Spiegel on March 5.

He added that he planned to put marriage equality on the agenda for the next meeting with his partners in the governing coalition- Angela Merkel’s party Christlich Demokratische Union CDU)/Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern (CSU).

This new move by the SPD needs to be seen in the light of the upcoming September general elections.

Am I hopeful that marriage equality will be a done deal? No. I recall my meeting a week before the 2013 elections with Johannes Kahrs, an SPD parliament member and spokesperson for the rights of LGBT people. I wanted to hear from him if the SPD took marriage equality seriously – as promised in the party program.

Kahrs looked me in the eye. “There won’t be a coalition contract without same sex marriage. Period.”

I left the meeting in high spirits. But alas, after the elections SPD and CDU/CSU presented their coalition agreement, which did not include marriage equality. Furthermore, their coalition government did not allow any support of initiatives by other political parties to introduce marriage equality legislation.

What is the political situation now? All political parties represented in the German parliament are in favor of marriage equality, except for the CDU/CSU. But a group of at least 13 CDU members have publicly spoken out for marriage equality. One of them is Jens Spahn, who is also a member of the party’s executive committee. On March 5 he tweeted “We should have marriage equality. Because it is about values.”

Approval of same sex marriage will enable gays and lesbians in Germany to marry the person they love and will strengthen the fundamental rights of everyone in Germany to equality and non-discrimination.

From a human rights perspective, broadening the scope of civil marriage to couples of the same sex is the right thing to do. The fundamental rights of equality and non-discrimination should be enshrined in Germany’s civil marriage law.

Germany should join the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, United Kingdom (minus Northern Ireland), France, Luxembourg, Ireland and Finland. All these western European countries have marriage equality.

The elections are half a year away.

Instead of making empty promises to the electorate and breaking them after the elections, the governing coalition parties should agree to change their position on same-sex marriage now.

It is time to deliver marriage equality to Germany. High time.