Even before the official start of the coalition talks in Hesse, one point is causing a particular stir: According to the key issues paper, the CDU and SPD want to "stipulate that state and public institutions (such as schools, universities, broadcasting) will refrain from gendering with special characters and will be guided by the Council of the German Language".

In July, the Council for German Spelling decided that gender symbols (asterisk, underscore, colon or internal I) were still not the core of German orthography. So they are still not regular signs. Read more about the decision and what it means here.

"An instruction to renounce gendering would be unlawful"

In particular, the Hessian state association of the German Journalists' Association (DJV) reacted indignantly to the plans of the CDU and SPD: "This would not only be clearly against the Basic Law, but also an outrageous political influence on the Hessian Broadcasting Corporation," said its first chairman, Knud Zilian. It is up to the latter to design the programmes and this also includes whether gender is used or not. "An instruction to refrain from gendering would be unlawful."

"You can stand on gender as you like, but a political ban on the reporting of Hessischer Rundfunk is not acceptable," said Zilian. How one can even come up with such a nonsensical idea is inexplicable. "The coalition partners should ask their legal advisers before they put something like this into the world." Freedom of broadcasting is a valuable asset, as is freedom of the press in our country. "And that also includes the right not to be deprived of linguistic possibilities."

The Hessischer Rundfunk was more restrained: it wrote on its homepage that it was "waiting with interest for the negotiations of the designated state government and the result on the topic of gendering in the coalition agreement". Gender-sensitive language is used in HR "because it means everyone, shows everyone and appeals to everyone." However, the type of gendering is not specified to the editors.

It is to be expected that resistance could also arise at the universities. In 2021, for example, the University of Kassel commissioned an expert opinion according to which it is permissible to require gender-neutral language in examinations under certain conditions.