BERLIN (AP) — Germany celebrated its first same-sex weddings Sunday, after a new law came into force putting gay and lesbian couples on an equal legal footing with heterosexual couples.
Town halls in Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere opened their doors to mark the event, made possible by a surprise vote in Parliament three months earlier.
“We’re making a single exception to fire a symbolic starter pistol because same-sex marriages are possible from today,” said Gordon Holland, a registrar in Berlin’s Schoeneberg district.
Holland said it was appropriate for Schoeneberg to hold the first same-sex wedding in the country because it has long been a center of gay life in the German capital.
About 60 guests and an equal number of journalists packed into Schoeneberg town hall’s “Golden Room” to witness the marriage of Karl Kreile and his partner of 38 years, Bodo Mende.
The grooms entered the room to the popular “Wedding March” by 19th-century German composer Felix Mendelssohn, before saying their vows and signing the marriage documents to applause and cheers from the assembled guests.
Kreile, 59, said it was an “incredible honor” to be the first same-sex couple to marry in Germany, noting that he and Mende, 60, had been campaigning for gay rights for decades.