German FDP head confirms homosexuality, calls for gay rights

July 26, 2004

Guido Westerwelle
BERLIN — The head of Germany's centrist Free Democratic Party (FDP) used a magazine interview Saturday to issue his most forthright remarks about his homosexuality and to call for more gay rights.

Guido Westerwelle, widely predicted to become foreign minister in any centre-right coalition government with Germany's Christian Democrats, told Der Spiegel magazine he was relieved that a tabloid newspaper had published a photo of him and his male lover last week.

The photo of Westerwelle, 42, and a 36-year-old Cologne sports entrepreneur was plastered across the front page of Bild newspaper under the headline: "Westerwelle loves this man".

In fact, Westerwelle admitted he had staged the taking of the photograph, knowing it would result in his national coming-out. It was taken at public ceremonies marking CDU party head Angela Merkel's 50th birthday.

At the party, where politicians were seated next to their spouses, Westerwelle and his friend sat next to Bavarian state Premier Edmund Stoiber, who could be seen in the photo.

As head of the CDU's conservative sister party, the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), Stoiber has opposed efforts to expand gay rights in Germany.

"I am of course in favour of more gay rights, as one could well imagine," Westerwelle told Der Spiegel.

"I can do nothing to change whether people approve or disapprove of my lifestyle," he added.

"It could well be that my coming out will improve the lot of gays in big cities, or it could result in more rejection of gays in rural areas," he admitted. But he said he could not permit such considerations to cloud his judgement.

"As far as I'm concerned my life is very natural and there's nothing unacceptable about it," he went on. "I live my life fully and I can truthfully say I've never put up a false front." He said he was fully aware of opposition to gay marriage by the CDU-CSU, which would be the FDP's coalition partners in any centre-right government.

Nonetheless, Westerwelle called for legislation putting gay unions on an equal legal footing with conventional marriage.

"The actual situation is that such unions carry with them tremendous responsibilities such as, for example, payment of taxes and social-security support and all the rest," he said. "But they receive none of the advantages granted to married couples such as tax breaks and inheritance and medical visitation rights. That cannot be right."

Currently, gay couples are able to register their unions with local authorities in Germany, but receive only limited legal rights in return and no tax benefits.

He said he supported legislation by Gerhard Schroeder's centre-left coalition government to permit legally registered gay couples to adopt children.

"Faced with the choice of allowing children to grow up in a loving and supportive home or allowing them to languish in an orphanage, I think the first choice is the obvious one." Stoiber, who was narrowly defeated by Schroeder in the 2002 general election, has vowed to see to it that current gay legislation is stricken from the books if a centre-right coalition government comes to power.

"That will not happen as long as I have anything to say about it," Westerwelle told the magazine. – Sapa-DPA

Related stories
Germany proposes futher rights for gay couples [07/06/2004]



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