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  • June 2017: Bundestag vote in favour of same-sex marriage

German MPs passed a bill on 30 June allowing same-sex marriage by a large majority (393 votes in favour, 226 against and 4 abstentions). In early July, the Bundesrat, the upper house of Parliament, also gave the green light to adopt the bill. Germany thus joins the twenty western countries having already legalised same-sex marriage.
By joining forces with the Greens and the radical left (Die Linke), two opposition political parties, and imposing a vote on the issue of marriage for all, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), a partner to the ruling grand coalition, got ahead Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had initially envisioned a vote after the next general election in late September. The latter confirmed that she had voted against the bill.
By recognising identical rights for same-sex couples and heterosexual couples, the bill paves the way for same-sex couples to gain the right to adopt, which was hardly possible until now. The Bundestag passed legislation in 2001 introducing a civil union with rights equivalent to marriage, except for certain tax and adoption benefits. The Protestant Church applauded the Bundestag’s vote in favour of marriage for all, while the Catholic Church condemned it.

For further information:,,

  • June 2017: A " liberal " mosque is inaugurated in Berlin

On 16 June, the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe Mosque opened its doors in Berlin. The name of this mosque refers to Ibn Rushd (1126-1198), known by his Latin name Averroes, doctor, lawyer and philosopher, who embodied an enlightened Islam, distinctive in its desire to reconcile faith and reason, philosophy and Revelation, Aristotle and the Koran, as well as Goethe (1749-1832), whose fascination with the East is well known, as attested to by one of his last works, The West-Eastern Divan.
This “liberal” mosque is open to all religious currents of Islam, to Shia, Sunnis, Alevis and Sufis alike. Men and women pray side by side, and women are free not to a wear head coverings if they wish. It is temporarily housed in a former theatre in St Johannis Protestant Parish in Moabit. Seyran Ates, a German-Turkish lawyer who was born in Istanbul and grew up in Germany, and known for her fight for the rights of Muslim women, is the figure behind the project. From 2006 to 2009, she participated as an independent Muslim figure in the German Conference on Islam (Deutsche Islamkonferenz), a forum for dialogue between State and Muslim stakeholders, established in 2006 at the initiative of Wolfgang Schäuble, when he was Minister of the Interior. On the day of the mosque’s inauguration, Seyran Ates preached on Friday. She has received hundreds of death threats since then, and has been granted police protection.
The mosque’s inauguration sparked hostile reactions from Muslims. The President of the Islamic Council of RFA (Islamrat für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland), Burhan Kesici, declared that the Ibn-Rushd-Goethe mosque was not a mosque (the Islamic Council of RFA, established in 1986 in Berlin, initially brought together Islamic associations linked to Turkey).
In Turkey, the Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs) tried to bring the mosque founded by Seyran Ates into disrepute, accusing it of being affiliated with the Gülen movement. The initiative is also a source of division within the St Johannis Protestant parish, as evidenced by the distribution of leaflets hostile to the mosque project on the day of the inauguration by a group of parishioners “Active Citizens for a Christian Germany” (Aktive Bürger Christliches Deutschland).

For more information: Der Tagesspiegel, Evangelische Kirchengemeinde Tiergarten,

  • June 2017: Consequences of the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of 27 January 2015 for the State of Berlin

In a decision of 27 January 2015, made public in March 2015, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the general ban on the Islamic headscarf was not compatible with the freedom of belief and religion enshrined in the Basic Law (Article 4, §1-2). It thus reasserted the importance of individual fundamental rights and freedoms and ruled in favour of the equal treatment of religions and religious plurality. However, the judges of Karlsruhe deemed that a headscarf ban could apply if there was a “concrete danger” that the State’s neutrality be called into question or if the wearing of a headscarf could disturb the peace of the school or the proper functioning of an establishment.
Far from bringing the debate to a close or putting an end to any conflicts, the Constitutional Court’s decision of January 2015 raised uncertainties and questions about its application and opened the door to a wave of appeals to the courts, as eight German States have adopted prohibitive legislation since 2004 on the wearing of religious symbols in schools or civil service. The State of Berlin announced in 2015 that it was not willing to make any changes to its Neutrality Act of 2005 prohibiting all public officials from wearing conspicuous religious symbols. However, it was obliged to pay two months’ compensation wages to Muslim female teachers in Berlin under rulings by the Berlin Labour Court in 2017. Since 2015, several female teachers have filed complaints against the state of Berlin, claiming that they were discriminated against on religious grounds, having not been recruited in Berlin’s public schools because of their stated intention to keep their headscarves in the school environment.
The contended revision of the Neutrality Law of 2005 is now dividing the different formations of the Berlin government coalition. A coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the radical left Die Linke has been in power in Berlin since 2016. While the Social Democrats (SPD) are fiercely committed to a strict separation between the State and religions and hostile to any revision of the 2005 law, the other partners of the coalition currently in power in Berlin (the Greens and Die Linke) do not see it that way and have spoken out in favour of amending the Berlin Neutrality Law, as have the Christian churches, which had hailed the Constitutional Court’s decision of 27 January 2015.

Pour en savoir plus : Die Zeit,,

D 7 August 2017    ASylvie Toscer-Angot

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