German Court's OK of Homosexual-Union Law Is Assailed

BERLIN, JULY 19, 2002 ( A decision this week by the Federal Constitutional Court of Karlsruhe has erased the legal differences between homosexual couples and married couples, the Catholic Church warns.

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Cardinal Karl Lehmann, bishop of Mainz and president of the German episcopal conference, called the decision “a dramatic alienation in the recognition of values.”

By a 5-3 vote, the court upheld a law on same-sex unions “for life,” saying it was compatible with the German Constitution, which establishes a “particular protection” for marriage.

Quoting the dissenting opinion of Hans Jurgen Papier, president of the Constitutional Court, the cardinal observed that the decision “does not set substantial limits on the comparison of homosexual couples with marriage.” Moreover, he said, “the qualitative difference” between both situations “fades.”

Hence, the decision “does not recognize the preponderant importance of marriage for individuals and for the community,” Cardinal Lehmann emphasized. “So, in the legal ordering, marriage is transformed into one form of life among others … [and] runs the risk of being left to one side.”

“This reduced and insufficient understanding of marriage harms our society,” he added.

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