Words of welcome by Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth at the Christopher Street Day opening ceremony

26.06.2015 - Speech

Governing Mayor,
Ladies and gentlemen,

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is a quote from Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted in 1948. It may be one of the most beautiful and important sentences ever put down on paper.

Human rights apply to all – without exception. If people are discriminated against or excluded on account of their sexual orientation, human rights are trampled underfoot. We must take a stand: in Cameroon, in Moscow – and in Berlin! That is what we will do today: loudly, joyfully, and full of hope!

We must not remain silent. We must not look away. In more than 70 countries, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex individuals still face criminal prosecution. Often, they can be sentenced to long terms of imprisonment – and in some countries in Africa and the Arab world, they may even face the death penalty. That is why we stand here now, flying the flag and saying: end this – and end it now!

Also in the European Union, much remains to be done. Yes, there are signs of hope that we are moving toward full equality – as we saw most recently in Slovenia and in Ireland. However, during my many travels throughout Europe, I again and again have met individuals who report acts of violence and persecution, and of a life in fear.

The Federal Foreign Office is the Ministry for Human Rights. We fight against all kinds of discrimination and exclusion – be it on account of religious belief, skin colour or sexual orientation. Together with the EU and our like-minded partners, we are working to obtain global respect for LGBTI rights as an inseparable part of human rights.

We particularly value the courageous individuals who get involved through their activities around the world – constantly putting their fingers on the wound. I am thinking of the lawyer and human rights activist Alice Nkom who recently visited me. She represents her gay and lesbian clients in court in Cameroon. We are also taking a stand here today for those defenders of human rights, lawyers, journalists, artists and politicians who – at times also putting their lives at risk – are fighting for the dignity of LGBTI. Their fight is our fight!

If we truly want to fulfil the promise of human rights for all people, we will need solidarity, courage and commitment that transcend the borders of national, cultural and religious traditions. Today, we celebrate the heroes of the movement, those who fought and fight for freedom – in a spirit of international solidarity! The fact that you all have come here today gives many friends and partners in Europe and around the world strength and hope. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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