When was homosexuality taboo in Christianity?
Homosexuality in ancient times
In fact, there is evidence that same-sex love existed in ancient Athens. In many poems, the sexual relationship between men is discussed, and finds from vases also show images of homosexual love affairs. Historians therefore assume that this love is socially accepted and that there were no reservations about it.
The formation of a special kind of army shows that love among men was not a taboo at that time: 378 BC there was the "Holy Band" military unit. It consisted entirely of homosexual couples.
Their mission was justified by the fact that the 300 soldiers in total showed more willingness to fight in the presence of their loved ones and that in the event of death they would not leave any grieving families behind.
Whether there really was sexual contact among the men in all relationships and whether women were unable to arouse any sexual interest in them cannot be clearly stated on the basis of the sources. That is why it is difficult to apply today's understanding of homosexuality to the past.
Experts suspect that there was also same-sex love among women at the time. However, so far only a few indications have been found.
At the stake
The more Christianity gained influence, the more homosexuals in Europe became social outsiders. In the German-speaking world, same-sex relationships were considered sodomy in the Christian Middle Ages - a sexual practice that was considered perverse and unnatural. Back then, homosexuals often ended up at the stake for so-called fornication.
Little changed in the anti-homosexual attitude in the German Empire. On January 1, 1872, the Imperial Criminal Code came into force and with it the notorious Paragraph 175.
It was the first to stipulate for the entire country that homosexual acts among men should be punished with imprisonment. According to Paragraph 175, homosexuals could also have their civil rights withdrawn, such as the right to vote.
Leading the way in homosexual issues
Because they did not want to accept this discrimination, homosexuals founded the first homosexual movement in Germany in the following years. Magnus Hirschfeld is considered to be its founder, since he publicly demanded the repeal of paragraph 175 and spoke out massively against its injustice.
The doctor and sexologist based his claim on the results of years of research. He found that the desire for same-sex love was not a disease, but rather an innate sexual tendency.
With the proof of innate homosexuality, he wanted to achieve impunity for gays. On May 15, 1897 he became a co-founder of the "Scientific-Humanitarian Committee" and thus played a decisive role in the fact that the Reichstag committee voted in 1929 for the abolition of Paragraph 175.
The intellectual climate in the Weimar Republic allowed the demands of Hirschfeld and his allies to be heard. But the radical social and political upheaval caused by the Nazis' takeover in 1933 brought this movement to an abrupt end.
Persecution in the Nazi Era
The rise of the National Socialists to power suddenly slammed every door for homosexuals that Magnus Hirschfeld had painstakingly tried to open in previous years.
According to the National Socialist ideology, a "lewd" union among men pollutes the German people because it does not contribute to the reproduction of the German master race. The Hitler regime tried with all its might to suppress the free life of the homosexual minority.
In 1935 it tightened paragraph 175, which from then on no longer only punished "sexual intercourse" but any kind of homosexual acts with imprisonment. Just a kiss or eye contact could result in up to five years in prison.
The then head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), Heinrich Himmler, finally ordered the deportation of all convicted homosexuals to concentration camps (KZ) in 1940. Only a "voluntary" castration could prevent this measure, which is why many men decided to have their testicles removed.
However, the National Socialist apparatus of power did not allow this escape route for long, as the forced castrations were carried out in the concentration camp as early as 1942. The hallmark of homosexuals in the camp was the pink triangle sewn onto their institutional clothing.
According to estimates, a good 10,000 gays had to go to concentration camps and between 50,000 and 100,000 to prison during the Third Reich. Thousands did not survive the terror of the Nazis.
Hitler's policies destroyed all emancipation movements that had emerged during the Weimar Republic. Until the post-war years, there was no trace of Hirschfeld's successes at that time. Homosexuals continued to be perceived as marginalized and the law still punished homosexual acts with imprisonment.
The change took place slowly: in 1969 the legendary Stonewall uprising occurred in New York, which is still considered the trigger for the new gay and lesbian movement around the world. When the police broke into the gay bar "Stonewall Inn", the guests for the first time resisted the arrests and discrimination that regularly occurred during such raids.
The days of violent clashes between homosexuals and the state authorities in this district not only drew public attention to the situation of lesbians and gays, but also motivated many of those affected to finally want to put an end to their years of oppression.
In the year of the Stonewall uprising, Paragraph 175 was also relaxed in Germany, as homosexual contact between adults was exempt from punishment.
From now on it was easier to get in touch with other gays and lesbians, but it was still social ostracism that made it difficult to lead a free life. In order to counteract this intolerance, numerous gay groups formed in the early 1970s.
The interests of the lesbians were neglected there, however, which meant that the women could no longer identify with the ever-growing male front. Because of this, they split off from them and organized themselves independently to fight for their rights.
It was not until ten years later that the two groups came together again in order to jointly fight for social equality. This includes, among other things, the elaborate organization of the numerous Christopher Street Days, which are reminiscent of the Stonewall uprising of 1969.
The new freedom
Today it is inconceivable that homosexual couples should go behind bars just because of their love for one another. In 1994, after more than 120 years, Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code was finally deleted.
The progress that the homosexual movement has made is unmistakable: Since 2001, gay and lesbian couples in Germany have been able to enter into a "registered civil partnership". However, this does not mean that homosexual couples are legally equated with heterosexual ones. For a long time they could not benefit from tax advantages such as spouse splitting.
The Federal Constitutional Court declared this unequal treatment of homosexual and heterosexual couples to be unconstitutional. In June 2013, the judges decided that gay marriage should be on an equal footing with traditional marriage. Spouse splitting is now also possible for gays and lesbians and can be used retrospectively from 2001.
There were also changes to the adoption law. Registered life partners have been allowed to adopt the partner's biological child as a stepchild since 2005. Children already adopted by a partner were exempt from this rule.
At the beginning of 2013, the constitutional judges decided that successive adoption is also possible for same-sex couples: if a partner has adopted a child, his registered partner may also adopt it.
On October 1st, 2017, the "Law on the Introduction of the Right to Marriage for Persons of the Same Sex" came into force. Since then, same-sex couples have been able to enter into a civil marriage with the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples. This also includes the unrestricted right of adoption, which now allows gay and lesbian spouses to adopt a child together.
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