Ehe für Alle/Same-sex marriage

Last Friday, June 30, the German Bundestag voted in favour of same-sex marriage, called ‘marriage for all’ (following François Hollande). The bill will no doubt be passed by the Bundesrat and signed by the President and become law in the autumn. But will there be a constitutional challenge?

June 30 was the last day of Angela Merkel’s current parliament and as there is to be a general election, the marriage-for-all bill, which had been introduced at least three years earlier, would otherwise have failed. I haven’t been following this closely and it’s a big issue, so please do further reading for details and don’t rely on me. But I believe that the Green Party applied unsuccessfully to the Federal Constitutional Court to make sure that the bill could be voted on on June 30 at the latest. (I can see the sense of the Court not intervening in the parliamentary process).

The CDU and CSU are traditionally against same-sex marriage, but on June 27 Angela Merkel permitted a free vote in the Bundestag, so suddenly it became possible for the bill to be passed, as not only some CDU and CSU members were in favour of it, but the SPD would also have been bound as part of the coalition government . The suddenness almost recalls the sudden opening of the Berlin wall in 1989.

New York Times:

Ms. Merkel, when asked Monday evening about gay adoption, cited what she said was a recent meeting with a lesbian who invited the chancellor to visit her and her partner’s home in Ms. Merkel’s parliamentary constituency in northern Germany, where the couple has raised at least eight foster children.
The chancellor said she had not had time to take up the invitation, but she used it as a way to illustrate that it may often be better for children to live permanently with a loving couple no matter what their sex, rather than moving from home to home in foster care.

Although Frau Merkel voted against the bill – she could be seen putting a red ticket into the ballot box – it’s been suggested that in acting this late before the election she was both avoiding a long discussion in the Bundestag and improving her chances in the election, since marriage for all was one of the issues on which Martin Schulz was going to campaign.

German legal bloggers disagree on what will happen next. Here is Maximilian Steinbeis at Verfassungsblog (lots of English there)Merkel’s Conscience:

In some way, the right always seems to succeed in making themselves believe that their reading of the constitution is somehow dictated by nature. They did that with the opening of the borders in 2015, and now they do the same with the opening of marriage in 2017. There will always be some constitutional law professor who certifies their constitutional interpretation with utmost authority, so they can keep on shaking their heads in a distressed and indignant way at the turpitude of these liberals that so blatantly disobey their own liberal constitution.

To not let them get away with that, to pierce their self-congratulatory constitutional certainty and force them to justify their readings of the law – this should be the task of constitutionalists.

Steinbeis goes on to link to Matthias Hong, who reads the Constitution differently Warum das Grundgesetz die Ehe für Alle verlangt.

A different view is presented by Andreas Schwartmann in Rheinrecht – Meinung: Diese “Ehe für Alle” ist verfassungswidrig.

BEEF! The German media scene

I’m just posting this old entry to check my blog is still working. I had thousands of attacks on my site in the last couple of days (as in April) and had to ask the provider to help restore things, but it looks OK now.

Some observations from my 2016 visit to Germany.

Selection of magazines, I think this was in Nuremberg train station:

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Here’s a particular curiosity:

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This magazine is not, as you might think, soft porn, it’s a magazine for men who like to cook meat. But perhaps that’s the same thing.

Einführung in das luxemburgische Recht

Beck Verlag has a number of introductions to foreign legal systems, and it has now added one to Luxembourg law, by João Nuno Pereira und Dr. Jochen Zenthöfer. There’s an interview with the authors (in German) here: “Ein vorbildlicher Rechtsstaat”.

João Nuno Pereira Es ist das erste Buch in deutscher Sprache, das einen Überblick gibt über die Juristerei in Luxemburg. Für Luxemburger, die lieber auf Deutsch lesen, kann es auch ein Gewinn sein. Wir haben so verständlich wie möglich geschrieben, und übersetzen auch alle französischen Begriffe.

Jochen Zenthöfer Diese Übersetzungsarbeit ist nicht einfach gewesen. Teilweise konnten wir gängige deutsche Fachbegriffe nicht verwenden, weil sie nicht das aussagen, was in Luxemburg damit gemeint ist. Den Begriff „autorité parentale“ konnten wir auch nach langen Gesprächen mit luxemburgischen Experten zum Familienrecht nicht übersetzen, weil jeder Begriff falsch gewesen wäre. „Sorgerecht“ etwa ist ein Unterfall der „autorité“ und meint im deutschen Recht etwas anderes. Es war manchmal schon echt schwer.

Luxembourg has three official languages: German, French and Luxembourgish. This is the first account of Luxembourg law in German and it will be useful for those of the Luxembourgers (of whom there are somewhat over 570,000) who prefer to read German.

Thanks to Christine Schmit on Twitter (her website can also be read in Luxembourgish).

The Trial – real lawyers and jury on BBC

People in the UK can see this 5-part serial on iPlayer – spoilers ahead.

Last week the BBC put on a program showing a fictitious murder trial but with real barristers, judge, court clerk and expert witnesses and with a jury who were randomly chosen members of the public. It reminded me of Marcel Berlin’s The Law Machine, which I watched ad nauseam with my students years ago.

The first episode I watched I thought not only the defendant and witnesses, but also the jury were actors. Not so! But those jurors were fixated on calling each others’ remarks sexist – the case involved a man charged with murdering his estranged but not quite estranged wife. For example, the relatively coherent older woman juror with experience of social services began to describe the way ‘an abusive man’ may appear amenable at first but gradually becomes domineering and controlling. She was immediately shouted down by two or three male jurors as ‘sexist’. Now this was boring if it was actors, but if it was ‘real’ people it made me worry about how one could speak about abuse and still be heard. However, I have now come to the conclusion that the jury’s remarks were tightly edited and we cannot decide from hearing a short exchange what they were like over several hours. Just like the Big Brother house and other reality TV products, you can’t trust it.

If one wanted to see the law in action, I would strongly recommend the way the barristers appeared. I particularly enjoyed the bit of bickering between them: it seemed authentic and matched my own memories.

It was odd that the judge’s closing speech was not given.

And then, in the last programme, at great length, the ‘true story’ was shown and we saw that the defendant really did kill his wife. I think it was a massive mistake to show what really happened. And above all, the way the jury’s individual votes were shown, showing that it was the women who voted guilty, and the details on how much domestic violence is not reported. An important issue, but we were to be manipulated.

This case should have ended in a not guilty verdict, not guilty for lack of evidence, but it resulted in a hung jury. Of course the jurors knew they were on TV, and that might have influenced their demeanour.

The whole thing has been well taken apart by The Secret Barrister: In forgetting our fundamental principles of justice, The Trial’s fascinating run fell down at the last:

Taking the above together, the only possible interpretation of the editorial line is: “This jury should have convicted. They didn’t, ergo they failed. What does this tell us about juries? (Clue: Maybe it’s sexism.)”

Which would be fine, had that been the premise of the programme. But it wasn’t. At least, not as far as we’d been led to believe. It was billed – accurately – as a groundbreaking docu-drama in which we would be given a unique insight into the way that juries operate. The opacity of the jury room means that, notwithstanding academic studies attempting to recreate its conditions, we know little about how juries approach their task. We have a fervent cultural faith in the inherent supremacy of trial by jury; let’s, Channel 4 suggested, cut open this sacred cow and have a rummage around inside.

As the Secret Barrister says, the jury trial is not about discovering the truth – but the programme behaved as though it was.

Obiter J also has a useful post on the programme, more about legal details and less about criticizing.

The history of Fanta

It’s been reported that Coca Cola, the owner of Fanta, made a bit of a blunder when it put up an ad in 2015 (now withdrawn) celebrating the 75 years of Fanta’s history with images from the Sixties – but 75 years takes us back to 1940, so the good old days were really the Third Reich. The new ‘original’ offering is in a brown bottle again. It seems that the ingredients for Coke were hard to come by in the war years, so Fanta was developed, using whey and apple pulp – citrus fruits came in after the war. The brown glass protected the ingredients from light.

This was just reported in English in The Local, but it is apparently a 2015 story.

The Local (English)
Die Zeit (German)

(Coke and Pepsi ads have recently been withdrawn in 2017 too, in the USA and UK).

According to Die Zeit, Coca Cola did well in Germany in the Nazi period, sponsoring the Olympic Games in 1936:

Coca-Cola galt in anderen Ländern als Wahrzeichen für den American Way of Life. Aber das Unternehmen arrangierte sich mit der Diktatur in Deutschland – und machte sogar außerordentlich gute Geschäfte: Zwischen 1933 und 1939 stieg der Absatz von 100.000 auf 4,5 Millionen Kisten. Die Firma war offizieller Sponsor der Olympischen Spiele 1936 in Berlin, und bei Kriegsbeginn gab es 50 Produktionsstätten in Deutschland.

German prisoners of war arriving in the USA were surprised to find Fanta had beaten them to it.

Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary by Tom West

I am pleased to announce that Tom West has published the Trilingual Swiss Law Dictionary he has been working on.
You can find details and sample pages on Tom’s website. While you’re there, take a look at his blog (I’ve never succeeded in entering the feed for this in Feedly).
The dictionary can only be ordered from the USA at the moment, at createspace, but this may change in future.

The dictionary is a kind of three-column glossary, but with some explanations in the English column. The first column is either German or French. There is a useful introduction with remarks about the problems of researching Swiss legal lanague.

German-English legal translators sometimes have to research terms from Austria, Switzerland (several cantons) and Liechtenstein – I have translated German stuff from Alto Adige but not yet from Belgium. There are fewer reference materials available for these than for Germany. French translators must have the same problem. I know one translator who poses queries on mailing lists and whenever he or she doesn’t understand the text describes it as Swiss, which suggests the kinds of problems we face.

A few links

Interesting interview (in German) with Katy Derbyshire on translating Clemens Meyer Im Stein (Bricks and Mortar) Ich würde mir wünschen, dass die Literatur die Welt verbessern kann. The novel is actually on my bookshelves but I haven’t started it yet. It’s about the development of prostitution in an East German town after reunification.

The author and translator are apparently giving a talk at Senate House on May 11, from which I discover that there is a

GLGN – Greater London German Network.

The GLGN is part of the think german initiative of regional networks spearheaded by the German Embassy.
The aim of the network is to fight the corner for all things German in the Greater London area by bringing together all those people in and around London who have an interest in the German language and related cultures and facilitating both real and virtual communication between them.

They are on Facebook and Twitter too. Who knew? It claims I am following it on Twitter – must be linked to GSSN, the German Screen Studies Network, which I do follow.

The Institute of Modern Languages Research is now in Senate House, as I realized recently when reading a history of German studies in London called Glanz und Abglanz.

German restaurants in London.

Disturbing: German Village and Bierfest at Mile End.

Now when days get longer and the sun comes out again it’s time for the German Village Festival. Sit outside in our Garden and get the vipe together with friends or family and enjoy a bratwurst or maybe one of our 3 different special brewed Bavarian beers. In addition you can visit our FunTime area or get your self a Heidi wig in the special German souvenier house. In the evening you should join our party in the Bavarian FestTent – grap your Lederhosen or Dirndl and become part of the biggest party!

Heidi wigs also widely available online.