Lesbians and gays in the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) “The fact that I’m gay is a footnote”

Martin Och is the regional chairman of the working group, “Lesben und Schwule in der Union (LSU) Ost.”
Martin Och is the regional chairman of the working group, “Lesben und Schwule in der Union (LSU) Ost.” | Photo (detail): © Martin Och

Conservative and homosexual: How do they go together? For members of the working group, Lesben und Schwule in der Union (LSU), this combination isn’t a contradiction. While demands for marriage equality and the right to adopt for homosexual couples is still being fiercely debated in the within party, there’s a lobby internal to the party, which is committed to just this. However, the LSU isn’t a recognized working group in all German states. Berlin and Brandenburg are exceptions.

Martin Och is 21, he’s a member of the CDU – and he’s gay. “It’s part of me like my name is,” the education student says. He joined the working group in 2010. Martin has been the regional chairman of LSU Ost since the end of 2011. With 150 members, it’s the biggest regional representative of the national LSU.

Martin has often been asked how he, as a homosexual, can identify with the CDU’s conservative values. “I’m a member of the CDU because I back the party’s values and its political decisions. The fact that I’m gay is a footnote, which I wouldn’t make my party membership contingent on,” the student says. “The SPD and the Green Party also have reservations about homosexuals,”he adds emphatically. “It isn’t a problem specific to the CDU/CSU. The red-green coalition were just as shy at a chance to pass gay marriage ten years ago.”

The fact that it was the red-green coalition, that was the first to even legally recognize same-sex unions in 2001 – incidentally against the CDU’s votes – doesn’t change Martin’s loyalty to the Union. Above all, he criticizes the government at the time. “The registered civil union is neither here nor there. It doesn’t equate homosexual unions with the marriage between a man and a woman. Today’s opposition couldn’t even make up its mind about the stipulated law until recently.”
 

  • Heinrich and Salvatore sealed their “civil union” in June, 2011, in Cologne. Photo (detail): private
    Heinrich and Salvatore sealed their “civil union” in June, 2011, in Cologne.
  • Heinrich and Salvatore: “Hopefully the debate about tax equality will reach a good outcome soon … regardless of which party passes it. Photo (detail): private
    Heinrich and Salvatore: “Hopefully the debate about tax equality will reach a good outcome soon … regardless of which party passes it.
  • The LSU float at Christopher Street Day 2012 in Berlin. Photo (detail): © LSU Ost
    The LSU float at Christopher Street Day 2012 in Berlin. From left to right: Martin Och (Regional chairman LSU Ost), Kai Wegner (Member of the Bundestag, general secretary CDU Berlin), Stefan Evers (Deputy party leader and spokesperson for queer politics), Frank Henkel (Mayor and senator for the interior and sport in the city of Berlin), Jan-Marco Luczak (Member of the Bundestag), Matthias Steuckhard (LSU Berlin state chairman).


“Gay marriage doesn’t exist”

Martin sees evidence that the party is currently changing in the initiatives put forward by several CDU members of parliament. In the middle of the political business’s summer break, they demanded that taxation for homosexual couples be equal to that of married couples. “The LSU fought for years for this. We can definitely enter this as a success.” In addition to adoption rights, demanding marriage equality for homosexuals is the LSU’s central cause. “It’s astounding that so many people in Germany are talking about gay marriage. Any yet, nothing exists in this country. All we have are civil unions. A man and a man or a woman and a woman can only be ‘partnered,’ not ‘married’ in Germany.”

The Federal Constitutional Court has ruled on how obsolete the unequal treatment of gay and straight couples is. A decision from early-August, 2012, gets to the heart of Martin’s position: That gay marriage is in accordance with the Christian worldview of union. “In both cases, it’s about mutually caring for one another.”

Adoption rights for homosexual couples

This is also Martin’s argument for lobbying for gay and lesbian adoption rights. You would have to push for them both within internal party debate as well as on a societal level, in which both sides could present their arguments and reservations. “A democracy isn’t about pleasing everybody, it’s about finding the best solution for the majority of citizens. That’s what a big tent party is all about,” Martin says, holding his party to its promise of being one. To date, it’s primarily been the CDU/CSU that has been reluctant to hostile towards gay rights.

Martin vehemently objects to arguments that are against the rights for homosexuals to adopt children coming from the ranks of his party. “First of all, it’s not about a basic right to adopt. There’s consensus in the LSU that nobody has the right to a child, but rather that a child’s wellbeing should be the exclusive factor when deciding which families get to adopt children. That can be guaranteed just as well in a family with homosexual parents as with straight couples.”

As a result, the LSU doesn’t only lobby within its own political ranks. It also works in cooperation with other gay and lesbian associations. “Obviously we try and be as present as possible, for example at all the respective Christopher Street Day Parades in our region.” When discussing the subject, Martin does reveal a spark of conservatism. If nothing else, he thinks the gay and lesbian scene is complicit in society still having reservations about adoption rights for homosexual couples. “Maybe the community should be a little less provocative at Christopher Street Day Parades if they want broader acceptance among the population for homosexual couples to be able to adopt. Loud and shrill is nice, but it’s not always helpful.”