In Conversation - Klaus Mueller and Ralf Kleindiek

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Jan 29, 2018
by Ivan Capriles
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In Conversation - Klaus Mueller and Ralf Kleindiek

Founder and Chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum and the German Ministry for Family Affairs talk about LGBT families' rights in Germany  

The implication of family definitions for exclusion and discrimination has been an issue that has brought together the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum and the German Ministry for Family Affairs since the Forum’s 2014 session in Berlin.

In 2015, Mueller and State Secretary Ralf Kleindiek introduced a three-year collaboration on “Family is…” at the session Strengthening Communities: LGBT Rights and Social Cohesion. The Forum has conducted a series of conversations and more than 40 video interviews over three years to develop a global portrait of families today. Its documentary film Family is…? A Global Conversation was based on these testimonies and premièred in May 2017 at the German Ministry of Family Affairs in Berlin. 


Mueller When our Forum met in 2014 at the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ralf said: “Come to us too to talk about family issues.” Out of this, we developed this new cooperation on “Family is...” as we both believe in the need to embrace families of all kinds and shapes.

Kleindiek: Collaboration with the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is important because family is for most people a crucial part of their lives, of their identities. It is important that we have a very wide interpretation of what family is. Family is whenever people of different generations look after each other. Married or unmarried, with children or not, old and young, same-sex or heterosexual couples. It is a very serious matter of discrimination if we define family as a closed unit.

Mueller: What is the state of affairs in Germany? Why can’t Germany keep up when compared to Spain or Ireland?

Kleindiek: Indeed, we are trailing behind.* There is a lot of discussion now, especially after the decision in Ireland [Ireland had just voted in favor of same-sex marriage a month before the 2015 session – the first popular vote of its kind]. But our conservative coalition partner blocks equality, and Chancellor Angela Merkel defines marriage as “exclusively between a man and a woman.” Within the Ministry of Family Affairs led by my party, we are making clear changes, but we lack a majority.

Mueller: How are LGBT issues dealt with now in the ministry? I think you told me once that the acronym wasn’t even there until recently?

Kleindiek: When I arrived at the ministry, we had a unit for families on “special situations.” I wondered if it was a special unit for vulnerable families or in poverty, but it was about same-sex couples. Imagine, that was a surprise! Now there is a unit for sexual orientation and gender identities and we coordinate our government politics for that issue across all ministries.

Mueller: Symbolic politics are important. What does the ministry do in contexts such as LGBT Pride?

Kleindiek: We will raise the rainbow flag at our ministry. There was a lot of resistance. We had a discussion because of the regulations for flags on federal buildings. I brought this discussion to state secretaries’ meetings. We found a compromise. Initially, those ministries that wanted to raise the rainbow flag could do so for two days. But now we can do it for a week. For us, this is an important symbol in order to raise awareness and further the discussion.


* In June 2017, the German Bundestag voted to legalize gay marriage, which in turn also gave same-sex couples full adoption rights. Chancellor Angela Merkel voted against the bill. The bill passed by 393 to 226 with four abstentions.