“Parma ham is better protected”

The debate over full equality for gay couples is not dying down. Now Justice Minister Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has come out in favor of full adoption rights for gay couples. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, fears for the softening of the special protection for marriage. Gay marriage rules vary widely in the 27 EU countries. Critics say regional products such as Parma ham would be better protected in the EU.

Frank from the Netherlands and Pierre from France are married and live together in Amsterdam. If they move to Germany, their love could become a problem: Marriage between same-sex couples does not exist here – and to that extent, such a marriage contracted in another EU member state is not recognized either.

"Spaghetti can move through Europe with greater freedom than couples," notes "ILGA Europe," the Brussels-based international lesbian and gay association fighting for EU-wide recognition of the civil status of homosexuals. Regional products like Italian Parma ham would be better protected in the EU than same-sex marriage.

Netherlands first introduced gay marriage e
Because in the 27 EU member states, the regulations are very different. Homosexuals can marry in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. The Netherlands was the first country in the world to introduce it in 2001. Denmark, a pioneer in registered partnerships, which have existed in the Scandinavian country since 1989, introduced same-sex marriage a few weeks ago in June. In this case it even means: not only civil but also church marriages for homosexuals. Because in Denmark, the state church system applies at the national level, which incorporates the Lutheran church into the state administration and places it under the control of the government.
Nevertheless, clergy can refuse homosexual marriages.

Ten other EU member states, including Germany, allow various forms of registered civil partnership, but do not give partners the same rights as married couples, for example, in adoption, inheritance or tax laws. Italy, Greece and many Eastern European countries, such as Poland and Lithuania, do not recognize same-sex partnerships. Only recently, these two countries were reprimanded by the EU Commission because certain laws there discriminated against people on the basis of their sexual orientation – but not because there is no regulation for marriage between homosexuals there.

EU: Not responsible for national family legislation
"The EU Commission cannot propose laws that interfere with the national family legislation of the EU member states or change the definition of the essence of marriage," states Natasha Bertaud, spokeswoman for EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. The EU does not have this competence – and does not even want it. They say the differences have grown, deeply rooted in historical, cultural and legal traditions.

Thus, the EU Commission cannot legally dictate to its member states the introduction of homosexual marriage. But there are other ways to "make life easier for citizens who face discrimination because of their sexual orientation," Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding says – such as under the law on the free movement of EU citizens. So the Commission announced that at the end of the year it would present a proposal to cut red tape and reduce costs with regard to the circulation of civil documents in EU member states. In the course of this, there are also plans to tackle mutual recognition of civil status, such as same-sex marriage. "But everything in its own time," says cautiously from the Commission.

EU lobby groups such as the Christian non-governmental organization "Care Europa" criticize that such an attempt by Brussels to mutually recognize marriage certificates could ultimately lead to the promotion of homosexual marriage in all member countries – regardless of whether they want it or not. And also the Catholic Church fears for the softening of the special protection of marriage. So called Pope Benedict XVI. In June, at the World Family Day in Milan, the European Commission called on politicians to "recognize the special identity of the family, which is based on marriage and is open to the transmission of life".

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