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Same-sex marriage for Germany

OXFORD (CNS): The German Bishops’ Conference expressed regret over a June 30 vote by the Bundestag (parlialment) to allow same-sex marriage while Archbishop Heiner Koch, from Berlin, described the vote as abandoning “the differentiated perception of various forms of partnership in order to stress the value of same-sex partnerships.”
However, the chairperson of the Commission for Marriage and Family said, “Differentiation isn’t discrimination and same-sex cohabitation can be valued through other institutional arrangements without opening up the legal institute of marriage.”
Archbishop Koch said Article Six of the 1949 constitution stressed the heterosexual classic marriage concept and that the Catholic Church would face an increasing challenge over the vitality of Catholic marriage.
But he assured that it would not change its sacramental understanding of marriage as a male-female union.
“As a Church, we respect same-sex partnerships in which mutual responsibility and care are taken,” he said, adding that “it is worth noting how many who long fought the institution of marriage have now become fervent advocates of marriage for all and how prudent convictions about marriage have been abandoned citing changing times and popular moods.”
The vote was hurriedly arranged by the Social Democrats for the last day of the legislative season, following a June 26 pledge in a magazine interview by the chancellor, Angela Merkel, a practicing Protestant who opposes same-sex marriage, to allow a free vote for her governing Christian Democratic Union.
In a June 28 letter to the Bundestag, Monisgor Karl Justen, the director of the Catholic Office in Berlin, said constitutional protection for heterosexual marriage was confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court when it approved same-sex registered partnerships in 2002.
He explained that the Catholic Church recognises a “great diversity of family situations,” but insisted that same-sex partnerships “cannot be equated with marriage.”
Meanwhile, Thomas Sternberg, the chairperson of the Central Committee of German Catholics, which has previously backed liberal Church reforms, told Passauer Neue Presse on June 30 that he also believes lawmakers had made a serious mistake by backing legislation that would require constitutional changes.
The bill is expected to be approved on July 7 by the upper house for signing into law by the president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

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