With Germany gay marriage now a reality, Karl Kreile and Bodo Mende are the first gay couple to get married under the new law.
The country’s legalization of marriage equality seemed to happen suddenly at the end of this last June when the Bundestag (the German Parliament) voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote occurred after Merkel abolished a provision requiring members of parliament to cast votes according to instructions of their affiliated party.
During this “conscience vote”, a majority voted to include same-sex couples under the nation’s existing marriage laws. The vote took 38 minutes.
The country celebrated its first same-sex weddings on Sunday, and there wasn’t a better couple to ring in the new age of equality than Kreile and Mende. The couple have been together for 38 years, and have been vocal activists for decades in the fight for marriage equality in Germany.
“After 38 years together, this is a day we’ve waited a long time for,” Kreile said. “We’ve actively campaigned for decades for the state to recognize us as equals. and finally we are able to celebrate a day we once thought may never come in our lifetimes.”
Mende added it was a “huge honor” for the couple to be the first in Germany to marry. “I remember the shame we felt when we were turned away from a registry office 25 years ago when we confronted the registrar as part of anorganized protest. They made us feel like second-class citizens.”
Town halls all over the country opened their doors to mark the event.
“We’re making a single exception to fire a symbolic starter pistol because same-sex marriages are possible from today,” said Gordon Holland, a registrar in Berlin’s Schoeneberg district.
About 60 guests and many journalists packed into the “Golden Room” at Schoeneberg town hall too witness their marriage. The grooms entered the room to the popular “Wedding March” by 19th-century German composer Felix Mendelssohn, before saying their vows and signing the marriage documents.
After cutting the wedding cake featuring a rainbow flag and the words “Ehe für alle.”(marriage for all), the couple held a small reception. They will fly to Vienna later in the week for a five-day honeymoon.
“We partied big when we celebrated our civil partnership in 2002, so we don’t feel the need to do so in quite the same way this time,” said Kreile. “Since then we’ve referred to each other as ‘husband’, but the state has not seen it that way. We’re relieved they came round finally.”
With Germany gay marriage a reality, an estimated 93,999 other same-sex couples are eligible to wed.