German Chancellor Angela Merkel approves compensation for past military anti-gay discrimination

WION Web Team
Berlin, Germany Updated: Nov 25, 2020, 07:08 PM(IST)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Photograph:( Reuters )

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The compensation would apply to soldiers from the Bundeswehr, which was created in West Germany in 1955, and to troops from former East Germany's National People's Army, founded in 1956

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday approved compensation for gay soldiers who faced discrimination in the armed forces until a change of policy in 2000.

Earlier, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said “I very much regret the practice of discrimination against homosexuals in the Bundeswehr, which stood for the policy of that time. “I apologise to those who suffered because of it.”

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Under the proposed law, which needs to be approved by parliament, soldiers who were convicted by military courts for being gay, demoted, or who otherwise saw their careers damaged because of their sexual orientation, would receive a "symbolic amount" of 3,000 euros ($3,500). 

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In picture: A German military truck covered with the flags of the lgbtq community

"We cannot erase the suffering inflicted upon these people," Kramp-Karrenbauer told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) newspaper group. "But we want to send a signal" and "turn the page on a dark chapter in the history of the armed forces", she said.

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The compensation would apply to soldiers from the Bundeswehr, which was created in West Germany in 1955, and to troops from former East Germany's National People's Army, founded in 1956.

The defence ministry estimates that about 1,000 people would be eligible for a payout.

Military court judgments against soldiers for engaging in consensual gay sex acts would also be quashed under the draft bill.

The legislation was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by democratic West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994.

However, discrimination against gay servicepeople continued for much longer, including after Germany was reunified in 1990.

Gay soldiers could expect to be overlooked for promotions or removed from positions of responsibility, with senior officers often deeming them a "security risk" or a bad example to others.

Lawmakers approved compensation for men who were convicted. Payments were later extended to people who were put under investigation or taken into investigative custody but not convicted.

A federal court decided in 1970 that homosexuality was no longer a disciplinary offense for soldiers unless there was a “service connection,” the new study said. That was interpreted strictly to start with and gradually loosened.

That ended with a law change in 2000 that officially protected gay, lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination in the armed forces.

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