German politician Friedrich Merz has said he “regrets” offending people after suggesting homosexuality is fine if it “does not affect children”.
Merz, a candidate seeking to become chair of Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, had made the comments last week when asked by Bild whether he would have issues with a gay man becoming chancellor of Germany.
Merz had said: “No. Concerning the question of sexual orientation, as long as it is within the scope of the law and does not concern children — at this point I reach my absolute limits — it is not an issue for public discussion.”
Friedrich Merz slammed for ‘backwards’ remarks.
Opponents called for Merz to apologise for the “backwards” conflation between homosexuality and paedophilia, with SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil making clear: “To always suspect that gay people target children shows backwards thinking.”
The comments were also condemned by health minister Jens Spahn, the country’s most senior gay politician and a figure often touted as a future chancellor.
Asked about the remarks at a press conference, Spahn responded: “If the first things you associate with homosexuality are questions of law and paedophilia, then you should rather direct your questions to Friedrich Merz.”
Deutsche Welle reports that Merz had initially attempted to double down on his remarks, claiming that opposition was “maliciously constructed” and that he would “continue to say this in the future, even when clearly one or another person doesn’t like it”.
However, the politician has since attempted to apologise.
Politician says his remarks have been ‘maliciously misunderstood’.
He told t-online on Friday (25 September): “It has obviously been misunderstood, sometimes maliciously, but I understand that it could be misunderstood, and that’s why I want to say that again explicitly, if anyone has felt personally affected by it I really regret that.
“It was not my intention, maybe [the juxtaposition] was an issue but these were two different thoughts with no intention of targeting anyone personally.”
He added: “The point I was making about sexual orientation in general, regardless of whether heterosexual or homosexual, is that it is not a topic for public discussion at all. The point was, and I do stick to it that no matter where it comes from, as soon as children are affected, it is unacceptable.
“If someone misunderstood that, I regret it.”
Under Merkel’s leadership, her party moved to introduce same-sex marriage in Germany and outlaw conversion therapy. However, as politicians jockey for position to become her successor and plot a rightwards shift, there have been fears that a fragile consensus on LGBT+ issues could be imperilled.