A Gay Turning Point that Failed to Turn? The Beethoven hall Podium Discussion of 1980

Samuel Clowes Huneke is assistant professor of history in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. His research, which focuses on gender and sexuality in Nazi and Cold War Germany, has appeared in scholarly publications including Journal of Contemporary History and New German Critique. His first book, tentatively titled States of Liberation: Gay Men between Dictatorship and Democracy in Cold War Germany, is under contract with University of Toronto Press. He is a frequent contributor to Boston ReviewLos Angeles Review of Books, and The Point magazine.  

On July 12, 1980, thousands of gay West Germans descended on Bonn. A federal election was imminent and West Germany’s gay activists had organized a so-called podium discussion at the Beethovenhalle, the large performance hall that had twice hosted the Bundesversammlung, which elects the Federal Republic’s President. Inviting representatives of the major parties to speak to a queer audience, the instigators hoped the event would pressure politicians—in particular those of the governing Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Free Democratic Party (FDP)—to concede to their policy demands. These included reparations for gay victims of the Holocaust and repeal of §175 of the penal code, which after the law’s 1969 reform set a higher age of consent for sex acts between men. 

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