Software problems block same-sex marriage registration in Germany

The rapid approval of gay marriage in Germany has left its computer systems lagging behind. The work-around means bureaucrats have to enter false information regarding the gender of one of the spouses.

Germany's bureaucratic computer systems will be unable to cope with the legalization of same-sex marriage in Germany, Berlin authorities announced on Monday.

When the new same-sex marriage law takes effect on October 1, registry systems will not allow bureaucrats to enter two people of the same gender into one marriage, German news agency DPA and daily newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, reported.

Same-sex marriage was spontaneously legalized in Germany in July, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed members of her ruling Christian Democratic party (CDU) to vote according to their conscience. The CDU had previoulsy opposed the granting of full marriage rights for all.

Read more: The long path toward same-sex marriage in Germany

A bill was signed into law within days of Merkel changing her party policy, but it seems the administrative institutions that register marriages were unable to keep up.

The problem was previously thought to be contained to registry offices in the state of Berlin, but the Interior Ministry confirmed on Monday that the issue was nationwide.

It will take more than a year to update the software to allow two people of the same gender to be registered in one marriage. Until that date, bureaucrats will be forced to enter the incorrect gender for one of the people getting married.

Read more: Why it's so hard to get married in Berlin

The ministry said software developers were normally given a nine-month headstart on such policy changes.

The lack of progress was condemned by the Berlin arm of the Lesbian and Gay Federation, the largest LGBT rights organization in the country.

"It is embarrassing that in the 21st century, a small adjustment would create such problems," said spokesman Jörg Steinert.

Registry authorities in Berlin have been warning of long delays when the new law takes effect.

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Following the vote, a sober-looking Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting in parliament's canteen revealed to journalists that she voted against the legislation because of her "basic belief" in marriage being solely "between a man and woman." She claimed her belief was anchored in the German constitution.


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Angry words from an advocate

Social Democrat Johannes Kahrs, a same-sex marriage advocate who organized parliament's cross-party "yes" bloc for the snap vote, accused Merkel and her conservatives of "wretchedly" blocking the measure for years. "I'm fed up. We deserve [gender] equality," Kahrs told parliament. He said the legislative victory was a turning point in history similar to the fall of the Berlin Wall.


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Greens parliamentarians showered their retiring colleague and same-sex advocate Volker Beck with confetti as the vote result was announced. Later in tears, he told German television that the "yes" vote had helped restore harmony in German society. The "wall" has fallen, Beck said, adding that the key was how two individuals cared for one another, regardless of their gender.


Coalition partner celebrates 'victory'

SPD leader Martin Schulz (right) said the vote was a "victory," less so for his center-left party but for the dignity of the individual, as enshrined in Article 1 of Germany's constitution. SPD whip Thomas Oppermann (center) said the vote was "good for the public," even if it didn't align with Merkel's vision on the matter.


Euphoria outside parliament

Dozens of activists celebrated the legislation outside the Bundestag in the aftermath of the vote. A Bild newspaper survey earlier in the week showed three quarters of Germany's population favored legal recognition of same-sex marriage. In 2001, legal reform recognized homosexuals in partnerships but left gay couples unable to jointly adopt children.


Still controversial in some parts of the world

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A dream come true

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