Lesbians As Political Actors: Transforming Germany's Life Partnership Law 2002 - 2016

Friday, July 14, 2017
Gilbert Scott Conference Room - 250 (University of Glasgow)
Louise K. Davidson-Schmich , University of Miami
In 2001, Germany became one of the first countries to grant legal recognition of same-sex couples; however, its Life Partnership Law fell short of full marriage equality and activists have struggled for over a decade to expand the legal protections offered to gay and lesbian partners. This paper investigates the degree to which the interests of lesbians (as distinct from gay men) have been represented in gradual process of amending the Life Partnership Law. The original research presented here draws on materials collected from Germany’s largest lesbian organization, the country’s main LGBT lobbying group, transcripts of parliamentary debates, court rulings, political party manifestos, and German newspaper coverage of the issue. I argue, as the literature on intersectionality would expect, Germany’s largest women’s association proved an unreliable ally for lesbians and the country’s primary LGBT group (called the LSVD) initially prioritized men’s concerns. However, over time – now that the law has been amended to include many of gay men’s demands – the LSVD has begun to push for some long-articulated lesbian goals. While the governing Christian Democratic Union opposes these policies, LGBT activists used national and European courts to force the Merkel government from above to adopt incremental changes to the Life Partnership law. Moreover, by framing their desires in ways consistent with their parties’ ideologies, lesbians within the Greens, Left Party, Free Democratic Party and (to a degree) the Social Democratic Party have begun to convince their organizations that supporting lesbian policy priorities is congruent with their party platforms.
  • CES 2017 Davidson Schmich Lesbians as Political Actors.pdf (1.9 MB)