Kohl's Christian Democrats catch up on pink politics

The German Christian Democrats, self-declared champions of the family, are about to embark on the path trodden by their opponents. Every party but Helmut Kohl's own has a homosexual section. Now, a group of gay CDU activists are also planning to come out.

"There are many examples of gays losing their party mandates when they are discovered to be homosexual," said Lars Luttich, one of the organisers of Gay Christian Democrats.

Representatives of five of Germany's 16 lander held their inaugural meeting at the weekend. A national congress, involving gay Christian Democrats from every region, is planned for next March. Most of the group, like Mr Luttich, have held high-ranking posts in the CDU's youth wing, and saw their careers broken because of their sexuality. They are united by the goal of raising the profile of gays in the party by campaigning for greater tolerance.

"It must be possible for someone to say `I am homosexual' without the danger of suffering discrimination," Mr Luttich said. There are, he adds, many prominent gays in the top echelons of the party who do not dare to come out because of the fear of repercussions. Several of them work in the Chancellor's inner circle. Mr Kohl professes not to care, so long as his colleagues are loyal and do their jobs properly.

The rest of the party is not so tolerant, however. The grass roots are vehemently opposed to gay liberation, and have scuppered all attempts to allow homosexuals to adopt children.

The party is also burdened by a history of persecution, which gay activists say stems directly from Nazi practices. Next February, Mr Luttich and his friends plan to hold a seminar about the "gay Holocaust". In order to draw attention to parallels between the treatment of Jews and homosexuals, this meeting will be held at the villa in Wannsee where the plan for the Final Solution was hatched.

Christian Democrat-led governments kept the notorious Nazi law in force until the Seventies, resulting in 100,000 prosecutions and 50,000 convictions.