She was neither wife nor husband. This was called after Maria M. while she was still living in Azerbaijan. Derogatory looks, overhand gestures - everyday life for the lesbian woman. In 2017, the police arrested 100 homosexuals in their hometown of Baku. But Maria M. was lucky: she was already safe by then. Since 2014, the 33-year-old lives in Germany. But now she should go back to Azerbaijan. The immigration office requires her to apply for a visa on the spot in Baku, which she needs for her residence permit in Hamburg.
There is no question that Maria M. will get this residence permit: Since 2018, the student in Hamburg is married to a woman. As a wife of a German she may stay, that's for sure. And yet she is now sitting in the administrative court, room 1.45, opposite a member of the immigration office. The authorities insist that the petite woman travel to Azerbaijan for the visa procedure - that's what the law says. The trip is reasonable, says the official. It is dangerous, the lawyer of Maria M., Claudius Simon Brenneisen, opposes.
According to Brenneisen, what sounds like an annoying formality is a life-threatening threat to Maria M. According to the German embassy in Baku, between four and eight weeks would pass before the visa was issued. That's how long Maria M. would have to stay in Azerbaijan. During this time she would be exposed as a lesbian woman again threat. Above all, she is afraid of her own family, Maria M. tells the administrative judge, in a low voice and in a pleading tone. Her brother was strictly religious, he would never accept the homosexuality of his own sister. Due to her fear, she is now in psychotherapy.
"A homophobic reasoning," says the lawyer
The foreigners authority would now have the opportunity to make an exception to the strict visa requirement. Again and again, there are cases in which migrants with undisputed right of residence do not have to travel back to their country of origin for purely formal reasons. Brenneisen, Maria's lawyer, has already represented a gay man from Azerbaijan, who has been spared the same. But where is the limit of the reasonable? When is such an exception displayed? "I have to compare that with other cases," says the administrative judge, adding, "Supreme courts even consider it permissible for Turkish men to go back to Turkey for 18 months for military service."
The hurdles are high. In order to find a factual standard, the administrative judge has commissioned a report on the threat to homosexuals in Azerbaijan after a first court hearing. An ILGA (Gay Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) report indicates that the risk to lesbian women in Azerbaijan is high, especially for women with a non-traditional appearance. Maria M. has several piercings on her face and wears short, high-hung hairs.
However, although the judge has commissioned that report himself, he does not follow him. Maria M. could easily avert the danger, he argued in early July in a letter to the lawyer Brenneisen, who made him stunned. The argument in the letter: Maria M. did not have to get in contact with her family during the two months during her stay. And her untypically short hair could cover her with a cloth - then she would not attract attention and would remain anonymous.
"That's a homophobic argument," says the lawyer. And then another, which is inadmissible according to the European Court of Justice: In 2013, in the case of a gay asylum seeker, he had decided that he just could not be expected to hide his own sexuality.
The process will continue, Maria M. now wants to submit a certificate of her psychologist. Perhaps he could take into account the great anxiety of the lesbian woman before returning to the question of whether the trip to their home is reasonable, the judge said at the end of the oral proceedings. But the result is still completely open: "I'm very curious about my own decision."