The Memorial to Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism located at the edge of the German capital city’s famed Tiergarten Park was vandalized this past weekend, according to a Berlin Police spokesperson.
The Berlin Police said that a park security official observed a male suspect “papering” the monument with slips of paper later found to contain Biblical verses condemning homosexuality and then attempting to set the memorial ablaze by tossing a burning object at it. The suspect fled when confronted by the guard.
Berlin Police are investigating this incident and another attack against a memorial for victims of the Holocaust, the “Platform 17” memorial, inside the Berlin-Grünewald train station.
The Memorial to Persecuted Homosexuals under National Socialism, in the shape of a cube with a window insert where a video of a same-sex couple kissing can be seen, was first erected in 2008.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that under the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933-1945, gay people were systematically repressed and persecuted, with some 50,000 being convicted on account of their sexuality.
Many thousands of them were deported to concentration camps and large numbers murdered there.
The second arson attack took place at the”Platform 17″ memorial, which honors the German Jewish people who were sent to their deaths during the Holocaust from the Grünewald train station.
In a statement issued Monday the Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Association decried both incidents:
“We are shocked by the inflammatory energy of both acts and hope that the person responsible in both cases will be caught quickly.”
These past two weekend incidents are among a rising rate of anti-LGBTQ sentiments in Germany, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, a German television station, reported.
According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the number of attacks against queer people increased in 2022. Last year, 1,005 cases were counted, including 227 violent crimes and 341 insults. That is about 15 percent more cases than in the previous year. The gay anti-violence project “Maneo” in Berlin also reports a slightly higher number of cases. According to Maneo, they will be “at a high level” overall in 2022.
The queer commissioner of the federal government assumes that the vast majority wants queer people to be able to live without fear and have equal rights. However, the results of a study from 2023 showed “that this consent is not stable and self-evident.”
Kerstin Thost, the spokesperson for Berlin-Brandenburg Lesbian and Gay Association told ZDF:
“We all have a responsibility now to work tirelessly to protect and treat everyone equally,” said Thost. “In this situation, everyone should position themselves for human rights and democracy. Even those who are not affected by queer hostility themselves.”
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Hungarian magazine places gay married couple with their baby on cover
Elle Hungary defended decision
The September issue of fashion and culture magazine Elle Hungary features a prominent gay married couple with their infant child on the cover.
While seemingly innocuous, the photograph of Hungarian restaurateur Hubert Hlatky Schlichter and his neurosurgeon husband Laszlo Szegedi kissing their daughter Hannabel is in open defiance of the homophobic government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
On June 15, 2021, a Hungarian law purportedly aiming at taking stricter action against pedophile offenders and amending certain laws to protect children was adopted. Some of the new provisions target and limit the access of minors to content and advertisements that “promotes or portrays” the so-called “divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.”
Orbán has been criticised by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ people with this law which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called a “disgrace.”
Orbán, who has publicly proclaimed that he is a “defender of traditional family Catholic values,” has been criticized by international human rights groups as discriminating against LGBTQ people.
Publishing the cover on its Instagram account Monday, Elle Hungary stated that the magazine’s intention was to “contribute to the acceptance of rainbow families” and help the publication to “campaign all over the country for love and all forms of family.”
(Translated from Hungarian):
Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, caring and supportive environment, and no one can prevent that because of their parents’ gender identity or sexual orientation.
On the cover of our latest issue, we present a Hungarian rainbow family: we can get to know the story of their becoming a family, their honest and loving everyday life with their little girl, Hannabell. Hubert Hlatky-Schlichter and Dr. László Szegedi confess honestly about the difficulties and prejudices they had to face as a gay couple at home and how fate-changing the arrival of their daughter was for them. With their story, we want to send a message to everyone who has felt that they or their loved ones have been attacked more recently: You are not alone, and there is a positive scenario!
We hope that with our current issue, even if on a small scale, we contribute to the acceptance of rainbow families, and manage to give inspiration, encouragement and support to the many thousands of readers who share the same values with us. The slogan of our cover page sums up our message beautifully: Born From Love, because families, regardless of their structure, are rooted in deep, unconditional love. Join the conversation by using the hashtag #BornFromLove to campaign for all forms of love and family across the country!
In the featured article written by Elle Hungary Editor-in-Chief Vivien Mádai that accompanies the cover, the couple discussed the division of parental roles, and candidly about discrimination they’ve faced in Hungary, particularly as they welcomed their infant daughter into the world.
PinkNewsUK noted that while a same-sex couple featured on a British or U.S.-based magazine would seem innocuous, in Hungary, it marks a landmark step for positive queer representation in the media.
On Instagram, the magazine’s comment section has been flooded with people celebrating the cover.
This past April, Hungarian President Katalin Novak vetoed a legislation that included a provision for citizens to anonymously report on same-sex couples who are raising children. In a rare departure from the policies of Orbán whom she generally supports, Novak returned the bill to Parliament telling lawmakers to strike that provision.
The country’s constitution states that the institution of marriage is “between one man and one woman,” and notes that “the mother is a woman, the father a man.”
This law’s passage and Novak’s veto came after the country’s Constitutional Court issued a ruling in February that will continue to block new applications from transgender people for legal gender recognition. The judgment effectively creates two categories of trans people in Hungary: those who applied early enough to pursue gender recognition and those who did not.
A spokesperson for the German government told the media earlier this year that Germany and France joined with other EU member states in the European Commission lawsuit over a Hungarian law which discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
The move by Elle to feature the gay couple on its cover follows a July incident where Hungary’s second-largest bookstore chain was fined for violating the nation’s 2021 law that limits the access of minors to books, media content and advertisements that “promotes or portrays” the so-called “divergence from self-identity corresponding to sex at birth, sex change or homosexuality.”
The chain was fined for selling copies of British author Alice Oseman’s LGBTQ graphic novel series “Heartstopper,” a global phenomena due to the runaway hit Netflix show based on her books in the series.
The Budapest Metropolitan Government Office fined Lira Konyv bookstore chain for placing the book series in its youth literature section, and for failing to place it in wrapped plastic packaging as required by the 2021 law.
The bookstore chain was fined 12 million forints ($33171.59.)
The French daily afternoon newspaper Le Monde reported that as a result, bookshops have decided that books deemed “sensitive” must be wrapped in plastic or moved them to the adult section, if they have not decided to refrain from selling them altogether.
German Cabinet approves ‘self-determination law’ for transgender, nonbinary people
Process to legally change name and gender on official documents would be simplified
The German Cabinet on Wednesday approved a “self-determination law” that would simplify the process for transgender or nonbinary people to legally change their name and gender in official documents.
The Associated Press notes trans or nonbinary adults would only have to notify a registrar office that they plan to legally change their name and gender in official documents and wait three months before they do so. German law currently requires anyone who wants to change their gender on official documents to obtain testimony from two experts who are “sufficiently familiar with the particular problems of transsexualism” and a court ruling.
The AP reported the new law would allow children who are at least 14 to legally change their name and gender with parental or guardian approval. A teenager could ask a family court to overrule their parent or guardian if they deny their request. The AP notes a parent or guardian of anyone who is under 14 can go to a registry office and seek a legal name and gender change on their behalf.
German lawmakers need to approve the proposal before it takes effect.
“Imagine that you … simply want to live your life and you don’t wish anyone anything bad, and then you’re questioned about what your sexual fantasies are, what underwear you wear and similar things,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann told a German television, according to the AP. “Those affected have found this questioning very degrading. Now we simply want to make life a bit easier for a small group for which it has great significance.”
The Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany, a German LGBTQ and intersex rights group known by the acronym LSVD, in a statement urged lawmakers to approve the proposal.
“The Bundestag is now responsible for correcting the discriminatory regulations and exclusions,” said LSVD. “Self-determination must be guaranteed without ifs ands or buts; this must also apply to young people. The Self-Determination Law must guarantee real sexual self-determination — without heteronomy or distrust.”
Queer Commissioner Sven Lehmann in a tweet described Wednesday as “an important day for fundamental and human rights.” Jenny Wilken of the German Society for Trans Identity and Intersexuality, an advocacy group known by the acronym DGTI, described the proposal as a “first step towards self-determination,” but criticized the three month waiting period and several other provisions.
Meet Poland’s out gay lawmaker fighting for LGBTQ rights
‘We are the most homophobic country’ in Europe
BRUSSELS — Speaking with the Washington Blade outside of the European Parliament building here, Polish lawmaker Robert Biedroń was quick to smile and exuded an unassuming confidence. The openly gay leader has become a well-known figure in the LGBTQ movement in Poland, even as the ruling party has gained international headlines for its anti-LGBTQ stances.
Biedroń grew up in the small southeast city of Krosno, about 80 miles from the Ukrainian border, where he said he struggled to find others who were like him. He said he did not know of a single gay person in his village.
“I was growing up in an area where there was a lot of forest,” he said. “And I had the chance to meet wolves, birds, and foxes. But never any gays.”
Eventually though, Biedroń found books about the LGBTQ experience, and learned of others who were living freely and openly. This opened his eyes and set the course for his career and life.
“The day I found out that there are people who are like me — who can live with dignity,” he said. “This was the day that I knew I’m unstoppable. And nothing will stop me from this fight.”
His home country stands out among European Union countries when it comes to LGBTQ policies. A May ranking by ILGA-Europe, placed Poland at the bottom of the EU, and 42nd of the 49 countries in Europe.
Same-sex couples cannot legally marry in Poland and Article 18 of the Polish Constitution defines marriage as “a union of a man and a woman.” During the 2020 presidential election, leaders of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party made headlines, calling LGBTQ identity an imported “ideology.” During this timeframe, various local and regional governments in Poland established primarily symbolic “LGBT Ideology-Free Zones,” which were condemned by the EU.
“We are the most homophobic country on the map of Europe in the EU,” said Biedroń.
Poland is one of the most conservative countries in the European Union and is heavily Catholic. According to the U.S. State Department, roughly 85 percent of the country identifies as Roman Catholic.
Public opinion has lagged behind Western Europe when it comes to support of the LGBTQ community. Forty-seven percent said “homosexuality should not be accepted by society,” when the Pew Research Center conducted a poll, in between 2015 and 2016.
Despite all this, Biedroń, decided to enter activism, co-founding the Campaign Against Homophobia in 2001.
“Because I have only one life,” he said. “There is no other chance. If I wanted to live in dignity — if I wanted to live my full life — I had to do it. Because nobody else would do it. Besides I knew I’m the ‘only gay in the village.’ The wolves and birds will not fight for my life.”
After years of activism, Biedroń decided to enter politics. In 2011, he became the first openly gay member in the Sejm, the lower House of the Polish Parliament. In 2014, he became the first openly gay mayor in the country, taking the top leadership role in the northwest city of Słupsk.
Then in 2019, he founded a new political party called Spring “Wiosna,” which won more than six percent in the European elections. This election sent Biedroń into the European Parliament, as the first openly gay member from Poland.
“The thing I want to achieve,” he said. “Is that at the end of my life, I will say I’ve done everything to be happy. And if this could help other people it will multiply by millions my happiness.”
Poles are set to cast their votes in parliamentary elections this fall. A coalition led by the PiS currently has the majority in the Sejm. Aaron Korewa, the director of the Warsaw office at The Atlantic Council, said that the Sejm is the dominant chamber in Poland.
“It’s whoever wins the majority in the lower house, in the Sejm, that forms a government with a prime minister,” he said.
Biedroń’s domestic political party is called “The Left,” or “Lewica,” although Korewa said that this is not currently a major party. He said the two dominant parties are the PiS, which formed under an alliance called the “United Right,” and the (CO) “Civic Platform” Party.
Korewa said that these parties are dominated by two strong central figures, Jaroslaw Kaczyński from the PiS and Donald Tusk, from the CO.
“It’s basically Donald Tusk and Jaroslaw Kaczyński having at it again for the future of the country,” he said.
Poland does not have a presidential election until 2025. In 2020, Biedroń ran for president, garnering just over 2 percent of the vote. Biedroń remained coy when asked about his intentions to run for president again in the future.
“Of course it’s good to be a president,” he said. “It’s good to be a member of the parliament. But at the end of the day, the best is to be happy. And that’s what I’m fighting for.”
Biedroń’s fight in Brussels and Warsaw might seem far away from those in the United States, but the lawmaker argued that LGBTQ advocates should not become complacent.
“Democracy, human rights, rule of law,” he said, “they’re like beautiful flowers. You need to water them every day. Otherwise, they fade away. And this is the Polish reality of today.”