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John Riceburg: Lesbian Shotgun Wedding

John's friend is having a baby – great news, right? So why are the German and Australian states conspiring against her? (Hint: Homophobia)

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Photo by Sigrid Malmgren

I just heard that Maria, my friend from Australia, is expecting a baby – yay! And she’s getting married – double yay!

I know, from my own experience, that the German State creates lots of hurdles for Eheschließungen mit Auslandsbeteiligung (that’s the lovely term for marriages involving foreigners). But I assumed they would treat heteros and homos equally terribly – Germany has those gay and lesbian ministers, and is generally fairly progressive, right?

It turns out not so much. Germany doesn’t recognize gay marriage, only eingetragene Lebensparterschaften (registered life partnerships). I thought that was just a different word for marriage – a minor phraseological concession to the homophobes. But this term implies all kinds of bureaucratic red tape.

Maria is going to be a mother. And her partner, Laura, will also be a mother. This, for the state, represents a huge problem. Laura is carrying the fetus and will be registered as the “official” mother. Maria will have to adopt the child. And for that, she needs to be in a civil union before the birth. And the due date is in November.

So they’re planning to tie the knot in August. “Laura will be visibly pregnant by then,” Maria says, “and I’m really enjoying the idea of our Lesbian Shotgun Wedding.”

Like any foreigner getting married in Germany, Maria needs an Ehefähigkeitsbescheinigung – basically a certificate from her state saying she’s not married to anyone else. But Australia, like almost every other country in the world except for Germany, doesn’t provide certificates like this.

When I was in this situation, I went to the US Embassy and got a form, the gist of which was: “John was here and he solemnly swore he isn’t married, but we don’t have any way to check this.” This, for the Prussian bureaucrats, was enough. 

Maria went to the Australian Embassy to the get equivalent. But they told her they can’t provide a replacement for an Ehefähigkeitsbescheinigung because it’s not an Ehe. Now what’s just a phraseological concession?

Instead, Maria needs something I’ve never heard of, a Ledigkeitsbescheinigung. If she were straight, she could have gotten a stamp right away at the embassy. Now she needs to send certified copies of her documents to Victoria’s Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The whole thing will take months!

Hopefully they’ll be happily married – or, registered in a life partnership – in time for the birth. “I’m kind of pissed off I’m being forced to get married in the first place,” Maria told me anyways. And at least the sanctity of straight marriage has been protected. I hope some homophobes in Germany and/or Australia are rejoicing.