QUEER VOICES
08/08/2017 11:37 am ET

Meet The 28-Year-Old Who Helped Pave The Way For Marriage Equality In Germany

Ulli Köppe's question for Angela Merkel is believed to have had a national impact.
Ulli Köppe asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her thoughts on same-sex marriage before the country's histori
Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters
Ulli Köppe asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her thoughts on same-sex marriage before the country's historic vote. 

German lawmakers voted in June to legalize same-sex marriage, marking a milestone for LGBTQ rights in Europe’s most populous country. 

International headlines were mostly celebratory. Only a handful of reports, however, covered the story of 28-year-old Ulli Köppe, who asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel about marriage equality during a live panel at Berlin’s Maxim Gorki Theater just four days before the historic vote. 

At the time, Köppe, who is a journalist and events manager, asked the chancellor, “When will I be able to call my boyfriend my husband?”

While Merkel had long been publicly opposed to same-sex marriage, she responded by dropping what some called a “political bombshell,” noting that she hoped the debate would shift “into the direction of a decision of conscience.” 

In the end, Merkel voted against marriage equality. Still, her unexpected response to Köppe’s question is believed to have sent a national message encouraging other German lawmakers, including members of her conservative Christian Democrats party, to support it. “Ulli Köppe didn’t realize he would change history with a simple question this week,” wrote USA Today at the time. 

On Thursday, Köppe looked back on his moment in the spotlight as part of an interview with Berlin-based journalists Clare Richardson and Rebecca Ritters for the new podcast “Europe to Date.”

“I had no idea that I would stand up, and also not my boyfriend. He was really surprised when I got up,” Köppe said of the experience. “But then I said very simple and very easy words ... so that she had to answer something.”

Listen to the “Europe to Date” interview with Köppe. Story continues below. 

Since then, Köppe has become a bit of a local celebrity in Berlin. “I was traveling around Germany for the gay prides, doing gay pride floats for the parades, and I got so many nice comments,” he said. “They recognized me ― lesbians, gays, literally everyone, they wanted to take pictures with me.”

Köppe’s proudest moment came on Berlin’s Christopher Street Day on July 22. “My mom was here with my sister, and she was so proud because there was one big sign that was on the TV that said, ‘Thanks, Ulli,’” he said. 

Ritters and Richardson, who previously served as HuffPost’s World Editor, filter European news stories through an expat lens on “Europe to Date,” which launched last month.

The podcast “aims to build news literacy for a plugged-in international audience,” Richardson said. Each episode takes a deep dive into a specific topic ― such as Brexit and where Europe stands on Britain’s vote to leave the EU ― and brings in experts to provide context to the most important issues in the headlines.”

Head here to hear more. 

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