Survey of attitudes towards lesbians, gay and bisexual people

Year of issue 2017
Date 2017.01.12

More than 80 percent of the people in Germany endorse a so-called marriage for all
Lüders: Equality before the law is overdue

A vast majority of German citizens holds the view that lesbians, gay and bisexual people are discriminated against in the Federal Republic of Germany and advocates their equality before the law. This is the result of a representative survey commissioned by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) to kick off its thematic year about sexual diversity entitled 'Equal rights for any love'.

Accordingly, 83 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that marriages between two women and/or two men should be allowed. About 95 percent of them endorsed the legal protection of homosexuals against discrimination. "The approval for equal marriage rights has never been stronger - it shows that in this respect society has reached a far more advanced stage than politics", said Christine Lüders, Head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency in Berlin on Thursday. Lüders called it "a sad reflection of our society" that unlike in 14 other European states 'marriage for all' still did not exist in Germany. "The legislator may no longer delay what a majority of our citizens has considered to be a matter of course for quite a long time. What we need is to open marriage for same-sex couples and to offer complete quality before the law, also in the case of adoption" Special schemes, such as the registered homosexual partnership applicable in Germany and frequently called 'gay marriage', would rightly be deemed as discriminating by most people.

Nevertheless, the survey also shows that negative attitudes are definitely still widespread within the population. Thus, 38 percent of the respondents described it as "very" or "rather" embarrassing when two men show their affection to each other in public. About 18 percent even consider homosexuality as 'unnatural'.

"The history of homosexual and bisexual people in Germany has been characterised by social exclusion and persecution", as Lüders said. "This has had a lasting effect until today. They had to fight hard for their rights for many years. Discriminations and insults in public, at the workplace or at school still occur. Standing shoulder to shoulder, we have to put an end to that: At the legal level, with a clear educational mission and determined actions against any kind of discrimination."

The results at a glance

The survey is part of a comprehensive study on attitudes of the general public towards people who are not heterosexual, to be published in spring 2017. For the purpose of this study, under the supervision of Professor Dr Beate Küpper from the University of Applied Sciences Hochschule Niederrhein, the centre of social science surveys (German abbreviation: SUZ) interviewed about 2000 people aged 16 years and older in Germany.

About eight out of ten of respondents (80.6 percent) consider the statement that homosexuals and bisexual people are still being discriminated against and/or placed at a disadvantage in Germany as entirely or rather accurate. 94.6 percent 'fully' and/or 'rather' approve that there is a legal protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

When questioned about equality before the law, 82.6 percent of the respondents fully and/or rather agreed to the view that marriages between two women or two men should be permitted. This percentage steadily increased over the past years. (For comparison: In 2002 almost 60 percent of the respondents questioned within the course of a study by Wilhelm Heitmeyer on group-specific misanthropy came out in favour of opening marriage for same-sex couples.) Three quarters of the respondents shared the view that lesbian and homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt children (75.8 percent fully and/or rather agreed to it).

86.1 percent are in favour of the planned Act on the rehabilitation of men who had been convicted on grounds of homosexual activities after 1945. The majority of the respondents also agrees to the Federal Government's envisaged introduction of a claim for compensation: 69.6 percent of them fully and/or rather agree to it.

As regards the subject of education and sexual diversity, a clear majority of 89.6 percent supports the goal of teaching acceptance towards homosexual and bisexual persons at schools. Seven out of ten (70.6 percent) rather or fully reject the statement that mentioning sexual diversity at school would confuse the children in the development of their sexuality. Approximately three quarters of the respondents (73.1 percent) rather or fully reject that teaching on the topics of love and partnership should mention only heterosexual couples.

The more the subject of homosexuality and bisexuality affected their private sphere of life , the more sceptical were the respondents' answers: Relatively few of them would consider it as 'very' or 'rather' awkward when colleagues at work are homosexual (11.8 percent in case of a lesbian colleague, 12.6 percent in case of a homosexual colleague). On the contrary, 39.8 of the respondents said it would be 'very' or 'rather' awkward for them to learn that their own daughter is lesbian; 40.8 percent felt like that in case their own son was gay.

A comparably large number of respondents also reject the visibility of homosexual couples in public: Accordingly, 38.4 percent do not like to see two men showing their affection for one another in public, for example by kissing. 27.5 percent feel uncomfortable when two women are involved. For comparison: Almost 10.5 percent feel awkward when heterosexual couples display their affection.
Only a minority of the respondents share an openly pejorative stance on homosexual people. However, almost one fifth of the respondents (18.3 percent) rather or fully agree to the statement that homosexuality is unnatural.

Annual theme - sexual diversity

The survey is the start of the annual topic which was proclaimed by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency for 2017, "Same right for all kinds of love". In this way, the FADA wants to draw the public's attention to discrimination and advance the legal and social equality of lesbians, gay, bisexuals, trans* and intersexual people. Inter alia, a campaign day has been planned at the Brandenburg Gate on 17th May, the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. Moreover, expert meetings and cultural events as well as a number of further surveys have been planned.

The FADA was established when the General Equal Treatment Act (German abbreviation: AGG) entered into force in August 2006. This Act aims to prevent or eliminate any discrimination on grounds of racism or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.