Same-sex Marriage meets German Politics
Hamburg, Germany's former mayor, the 58-year-old Carl-Friedrich Arp Ole Freiherr von Beust, "has married his friend of several years," the German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported on June 25, 2013. Der Spiegel referenced thereby a private ceremony five weeks earlier between Ole von Beust, as he is commonly known, and a 22-year old man. Following my previous Mercatornet report of a German parliamentarian's"family" involving a male homosexual couple, a female homosexual couple, and the daughter born through artificial insemination between them, Beust's "marriage" raises yet more high-profile questions about the integrity of marriage in Germany and beyond.
Beust's partner is the university student Lukas Förster, whom Beust came to know in 2009 as the then gymnasium (high school) student Förster had an internship at Hamburg city hall. As an article in Germany's conservative Die Welt newspaper stated, the couple's registration under Germany's Life Partnership Law (Lebenspartnerschaftsgesetz) ended four years of "wild marriage" cohabitation. As Berlin's newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported, the 36-year age difference with Förster, considered "shy" by many, prompted "criticism and whispered gossip." Yet Beust had previously countered to reporters that "everywhere there is complaining" but "I live according to the law."
The couple had previously appeared publicly only during a 2010 opening of an Armani boutique in Hamburg's high-end shopping district Hohe Bleichen after Beust had left the mayoralty of Hamburg's city-state. In a 2012 interview, Beust discussed how he had "never lived my gay life secretly," yet he had never wanted to publicize his private affairs. Thus Beust lacked the "courage" to discuss publicly his homosexuality before his 2001 election as Hamburg's mayor, "because I had the concern that I would then only be a gay politician and no longer the politician who pursued idea A, B, or C." Referencing his membership in Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union or CDU), Beust stated that he did not want the "label" of the "gay in the CDU." In all, Beust did not find the "topic" of "what you do in bed with whom" to be "so exciting" and believed that this issue "should not concern anyone."
A coalition partner in Beust's city administration, Ronald Schill, though, forced Beust's outing in August 2003 through an attempt to blackmail him. Schill made the unsubstantiated claim that Beust had installed Roger Kusch as Hamburg's justice minister due to a homosexual liaison with Beust. Ultimately, Beust's father revealed in a Die Welt interview on August 31, 2003, that his son was gay.
Beust ended his coalition and called for new elections, winning an absolute CDU majority for the years 2004-2008. This feat complemented Beust's 2001 victory ending 44 years of the CDU being in the opposition in traditionally leftist Hamburg. Beust then led an effective CDU-Green Party coalition in Hamburg's government before retiring on August 25, 2010. As Deutsche Welle writes, "the highest-profile alliance in the history of two parties considered at opposing ends of the political spectrum."
Not surprisingly, Beust declared in a March 2013 interview that "still no one had been able to justify to him rationally why it should be against conservative principles if same-sex people want to enter firm commitments and become just as privileged as married individuals." "There is," Beust added in noting conservative opposition to his views in the CDU, "nothing more conservative than marriage. If people, whether same-sex or not, enter lasting commitments, promise each other fidelity and care, and unburden the state, than that is a very conservative idea." Beust cited similar sentiments from British Prime Minister David Cameron in advocating complete legal equality between homosexual and heterosexual unions. Beust, though, could "well understand" why some would oppose homosexual adoption, something with which "even I have my problems," although Beust claimed that several studies showed no negative influence of homosexual adoption upon children. At any rate, Beust stated that homosexual adoption and any same-sex "marriage" (SSM) would only involve a small number of people.
Beust's beliefs and behaviors are ultimately contradictory and troubling. Beust has claimed a desire to keep his personal life private, and yet advocates public recognition of his homosexual relationship without explaining why society has an interest in liaisons lacking any natural connection to childrearing. Beust has tried to justify SSM in terms of mutual care between individuals that would "unburden the state," yet the copious research collected by the Christian conservative Family Research Council (FRC) on homosexuality's health harms and unstable relationships suggests otherwise.
As previously indicated, Beust's relationship with Förster raises eyebrows with respect to just what "firm commitments" can exist between two men of ages to be father and son. Some commentators in discussing Breust have noted the 70-year old Franz Müntefering, the former chairman of Germany's social democratic party, the SPD, who married a 30-year old woman. Yet a 30-year old woman deciding whether to marry a man 40 years her senior is still more mature than a 22-year old man. Beust's new union would most likely evoke memories of Princess Diana's ill-fated 1981 marriage at 20 years of age with a Prince Charles 13 years her senior. Alternatively, the intern-chief executive romance between Beust and Förster might recall President William Jefferson Clinton's (born 1946) adultery with Monica Lewinsky (1973).
Although Beust claims to "live according to the law," meanwhile, his apparent attraction to young men can only recall the disgraced homosexual American Congressman Mark Foley. Half a year older than Beust, Foley resigned his congressional office in 2006 after his lewd emails to adolescent pages become public, although investigations revealed no evidence for criminal charges. For many the similarities between the behavior of Beust and Foley, irrespective of legal limits, are simply too strong for comfort.
The conservative German website Politically Incorrect (PI) has already expressed its reservations towards Beust's living arrangements and previously those of Michael Kauch, the German parliamentarian whose daughter lives amidst her biological parents' two homosexual couples. With respect to Kauch's daughter, one PI contributor observed that the "future will indeed show whether the small girl is adept at emotional multitasking. Perhaps the 'new person,' the dream of every totalitarian ideology, will still be created?" In Kauch's wake, Beust's SSM prompted another PI contributor to speculate whether this couple would "soon adopt a happy baby or donate their semen to a surrogate mother."
Germany has thus bestowed public recognition upon homosexual relationships serving no public purpose, even as these relationships present disturbing possibilities of actual harm to individuals and the social fabric. Should any scandal or disunion result from the lives of homosexuals like Beust, moreover, this will only reflect badly upon a heterosexually-defined institution of marriage falsely associated with homosexual relationships. An institution badly in need of strengthening will only suffer more discredit.
Die Welt noted that Konrad Adenauer, postwar Germany's historic chancellor from the CDU in the years 1949-1963, defended his Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano against suspicions of homosexuality with the statement, "As long as he does not touch me, I do not care." A capable politician, Beust simply offers no convincing reason to abandon such a societal hands-off approach to homosexuality. Given its problems and lack of purpose beyond personal pleasure, homosexuality should remain a private, and not a public matter.