Two of Germany’s top Catholic lay organizations have endorsed proposed civil legislation to expand transgender rights.
Last year, Germany’s federal government introduced the “Self-Determination Act,” a bill to simplify measures for gender transitions to allow trans and nonbinary people to attest to their name and gender marker when it comes to legal and governmental matters. Presently, the country’s process is quite burdensome and invasive, as well as expensive.
The Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDJK) and the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK) both took action to endotse the legislation.
The BDJK’s statement additionally offered some criticism that the bill was not sufficiently expansive. In a statement, the Federation said (via Google Translate):
“The BDKJ, as the umbrella organization for Catholic children’s and youth organizations, supports the federal government in its plan to abolish the discriminatory and partly unconstitutional transgender law [now in place] and replace it with a modern self-determination law. We rate this socio-political progress as long overdue. It is an important milestone for the rights of queer people and gender equality in its diversity, for which we as an association have long been committed to in society and church. . .The Self-Determination Act will primarily help people to live and be how they want to live and how they are in their search for identity – especially children and young people.”
BDKJ’s criticism involved the bill’s limitations on allowing children under age 14 to self-determine their gender without parental or family court consent, with the Catholic youth organization advancing the idea that a right to self-determination is equal to all people regardless of age. BDJK’s statement also called for a universal ban on conversion therapy.
Specific to the church, BDKJ highlighted how some Catholics have been working to oppose the Self-Determination Act in conjunction with anti-transgender groups. The statement commented:
“Unfortunately, we are observing that the societal mood surrounding the proposed law is being deliberately influenced by anti-trans positions and right-wing voices that fuel uneasiness, fear and spread misinformation. For example, the planned self-determination law has nothing to do with medical interventions, but only wants to regulate civil status. We are also aware of misanthropic statements from some Catholic circles. We consistently oppose this propaganda and queer hostility.”
The Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), a powerful lay organization that has been the collaborative partner with Germany’s bishops during the Synodal Way, not only expressed support for the Self-Determination Act, but for other LGBTQ+ reforms, as well. Katholisch.de reported on the group’s recent assembly:
“With a large majority, the 230 delegates demand that the diversity of gender identities and sexual orientations be recognized in state and church. They call on the German bishops to put their reform of church labor law into force as quickly as possible and to commit themselves to adapting Catholic sexual morality to the findings of the human sciences. The state must also abolish discrimination ‘with regard to gender and sexual orientation in legislation, case law and administrative practice in Germany.
“The ZdK also welcomes the self-determination law planned by the federal government. The delegates emphasized that non-discriminatory treatment in society and the church is overdue. They support the idea that a gender entry in the civil status register should be changed by a declaration at the registry office. ‘This allows trans* and inter* people to define themselves with their gender and name.’ The ZdK also appeals to the German bishops ‘to respect and protect the right to self-determination’ and to avoid sanctioning employees who refer to it.”
Too often, it is Catholic voices who loudly oppose transgender rights in the civil sphere (a trend the BDKJ rightly call out). Here, however, both BDKJ and ZdK exemplify how the faithful can be advocates for gender equality not only within the church, but as Catholics involved in public life. Once again, German Catholics are breaking new ground when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues—and will hopefully help the Self-Determination Act become law.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, January 11, 2023