LGBT politics in Germany: Unification as a catalyst for change

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8 Scopus citations


The two and a half decades since unification brought about significant paradigm changes in German social policies towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) citizens including, inter alia, the legalisation of samesex partnerships, an expansion of the rights granted to these same sex couples, and reforms allowing individuals to change their legal gender without divorcing or undergoing irrevocable surgeries. This article investigates developments that led the government of the Federal Republic, long dominated by socially conservative Christian Democrats, to extend greater rights to sexual minorities in the years following unification. The explanation lies in LGBT activists’ use of what van der Vleuten refers to as ‘pincer’ tactics, working not only at the national level but also at the European level to pressure reluctant domestic actors. Unification proved a critical juncture on both fronts, leading to the creation of a politically influential, pan- German LGBT organisation at the domestic level and to institutional changes conducive to LGBT activism at the European Union level. In the language of the introduction to this volume, unification had an indirect effect on LGBT rights, leading to a gradual increase in rights for sexual minorities, driven by a combination of activism from the ‘outside in’ and the ‘inside out’. This article ‘brings in’ the study of gender and sexuality to the literature on post-communist transformations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-555
Number of pages22
JournalGerman Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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