On July 21, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier signed a bill giving same-sex couples the right to marry in Germany. Several months later, on Sunday, October 1, the law went into effect. While Germany's registry offices are usually closed on Sundays, some made an exception to take advantage of this moment in history, the BBC reports. This enabled the first couple to benefit from the new law to get married in Berlin's Schöneberg town hall.
Karl Kreile, 59, and Bodo Mende, 60, have been a couple for 38 years, many of which they've spent fighting for the right to marry. Mende told Reuters that this fight was "25 years of hard struggle." Twenty-five years prior, he and Kreile had attempted to get married to raise awareness of the issue. "I remember how it felt when we went to the registry office in Berlin Charlottenburg to request marriage," he said. "The official was nice, and so were the couples before and after us in the line, telling us: 'We understand what you want.' But afterwards I still had to feel a sense of shame. I felt discriminated against, being sent out again."
To celebrate finally being able to go to the registry and not get turned down, the couple had a rainbow-themed wedding. The table in front of them as they said their vows was decorated with rainbow flags, and their cake was rainbow-colored and read "Marriage for all."
Now, Mende is hoping the rest of the world follows suit in advancing LGBTQ rights. "We don’t need to look far, just to the neighbor countries where the situation is more disturbing," he said.
In Germany, registered partnerships between same-sex couples became legal in 2001, but the right to marry allows them tax benefits, the right to adopt, and other advantages they didn't have previously. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, but in June, she allowed parliament members to vote on the issue based on their personal beliefs rather than their political parties. Thanks to this change of heart, dozens of same-sex couples have already gotten married in Germany.