An Open Letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel

Dear Chancellor Merkel,

I want to thank you for your open-mindedness. Specifically, thank you for allowing a vote on same-sex marriage to go to a vote in the Bundestag. It is deeply meaningful to so many people, including me.

I was born in the United States to two Jewish parents. My mother was the child of Holocaust refugees, who fled Germany to South America, and eventually came to the United States to be able to provide a better life for their children. I grew up surrounded by Holocaust survivors — my grandmother’s friends — and heard their stories, their triumphs, and sometimes their fears. All of them are gone now, except my grandmother. But I loved all of them like my own family.

I am a gay man. In the infamous words of Klaus Wowereit, which I will appropriate here as my own: “Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so.” I grew up in the area around San Francisco, in theory the U.S.’s most progressive city. But the world I grew up in was still cruel, unaccepting, and rejected me for my sexuality. I grew up, came out of the closet at 17, and claimed my place as a gay adult. Today, I am active in LGBTQ activism in San Francisco, I volunteer for progressive political organizations, and I am studying to pass the California Bar Exam so I can work as an attorney. I have a job in September working for a small community legal clinic.

I am also a German citizen. After discovering the applicable laws, I went to the German consulate here in San Francisco to begin my application process to become a citizen of Germany, a country that killed and persecuted my family only two generations ago. I did this because Germany is now the leader of the western world. I did this because Europe is my homeland, and I am always unsure as to the United States’ future. And I did this because a strong, brilliant woman was leading Germany, and building it into the preeminent world power.

Three months after I received my German passport, I met the love of my life, Kevin Cureton. The date was June 26, 2013, the day that the United States Supreme Court overturned the California constitutional amendment that made same-sex marriage illegal. On the second anniversary of our meeting, the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right across the entire country. I feel quite strongly, however, that had the Supreme Court not declared the same-sex marriage laws to be unconstitutional, we would still be losing the battle to marry nationwide. But, with our ability to marry, Kevin proposed to me in September 2015.

The United States in 2017 is a scary place. Donald Trump is a petulant child armed with his Twitter account, an army of cronies, and the nuclear codes. He cares only about himself and the people who helped him get where he is — not the voters, but the powerful businesspeople. And he is not the worst part; his followers are little short of rabid, and they are willing to watch the country burn just to advance their sick and cruel agenda.

And so the world’s power structure shifts. So few people respect “President” Trump that my country’s respect is nearing zero. And the world has turned to you.

Your recent actions have been little short of heroic. And it shows the truly spectacular character that you possess. A world leader going public with a personal experience like the one you had with the lesbian foster parents and describing how it changed your personal opinion on an issue is not only commendable, but also quite remarkable in this age of opaque politics. In the U.S., it is unthinkable that a politician would admit that they were wrong on an issue, or even that they learned something new.

You are a savvy politician, and although of course I don’t agree with your vote on the same-sex marriage initiative, I applaud you for letting it go to the vote despite your assured knowledge that it would pass. And I can certainly imagine why you voted the way you did.

My husband-to-be and I are taking our honeymoon before our wedding, this August. We will be passing through Berlin, one of my favorite cities, along with Venice, Vienna, Krakow, Wrocław (my grandmother’s hometown), and Prague. We are coming back to San Francisco afterward, and we will be married on September 3 here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Your leadership is inspirational. But for the sake of transparency, I admit to wanting to inspire you further. You have shown your willingness to accept change. If seeing wonderful lesbian parents can help you change your mind about adoption by same-sex couples, I’m hoping that seeing a bona fide same-sex marriage might inspire you further.

Please join us on September 3, 2017. My mom is making the desserts, Kevin’s large, conservative family will be joining us from across the American Southwest, and the ceremony will be performed by my mentor, a federal judge here in San Francisco. See what a real gay couple, enjoying the same right you just allowed your own people, is like on our happiest of days. We would love to have you join us.

Thank you for all you have done, and all you will continue to do to make us proud of Germany and Europe. Hope to see you in a few months.

Always with love,

Alex Lemberg

San Francisco, California