Queer soldiers unfairly dismissed for their sexuality win compensation from German government

Matilda Davies November 25, 2020
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Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer stands at a podium in a coat. A blurred serviceman is seen in the foreground.

German Defence Minister, Defense Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. (Getty/ Sean Gallup)

Germany’s government has approved legislation that will offer €3,000 in compensation for gay military personnel who have experienced discrimination.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, said: “I know that we can’t make up for the personal injustice they suffered but, with the lifting of verdicts and the payment of lump-sum compensation, we want to send a signal of redress.”

The new legislation aims to “restore the dignity of these people who wanted nothing other than to serve Germany”, according to Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The legislation still requires paliamentary approval, but Kramp-Karrenbauer is optimistic about getting the support of lawmakers. She hopes to “rehabilitate and compensate those affected next year”.

German government estimates that 1,000 people will apply for compensation.

The ministry previously commissioned a study and found “systemic discrimination” in the military from 1955 to 2000. This included both West Germany’s military, the Bundeswehr, and the military of reunited Germany from 1990.

The study found that homosexuality was “viewed as a security risk in the Bundeswehr until the turn of the millennium and made a career as an officer or non-commissioned officer impossible”.

The new legislation will also cover victims of discrimination in East Germany’s National People’s Army. Kramp-Karrenbauer said this was “an important signal” because 2020 marks 30 years since the reunification of Germany.

The government will offer €3,000 in compensation to personnel who received military court verdicts for consensual gay sex. Soldiers who were dismissed, denied for promotions or put under investigation will also be eligible for compensation.

Defence minister apologised for the discrimination faced by military personnel.

In September, Kramp-Karrenbauer apologised to those who suffered discrimination.

The defence minister said: “I very much regret the practice of discrimination against homosexuals in the Bundeswehr, which stood for the policy of that time. I apologize to those who suffered because of it.”

This comes after the UK Ministry of Defence apologised for similar policies in January. However, the UK has not yet introduced an official compensation scheme for those dismissed from the military on grounds of their sexual orientation.

More than 150 people have sought compensation in the UK, though its thought the true number affected is likely to run into the thousands.

Rudolf Scharping, previously Germany’s defence minister, ended official discrimination in 2000 after an officer took a legal case to Germany’s highest court having been removed from his position. Scharping stated: “Homosexuality does not constitute grounds for restrictions in terms of assignment or status.”

In 2017, German parliament voted to annul the convictions for gay men criminalised under anti-gay laws. Fifty-thousand men were convicted under these laws in West Germany between 1949 and 1969. Germany decriminalised homosexuality in 1969, but the legislation wasn’t fully removed from law until 1994.

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