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Berlin's gay
mayor criticized for welcoming S/M convention

Berlin's gay
mayor criticized for welcoming S/M convention

Berlin's mayor on Tuesday rejected criticism from the conservative opposition for his decision to send a greeting to a leather and latex fetish gathering in the German capital, accusing his opponents of being "small-minded." Mayor Klaus Wowereit welcomed the participants of the Folsom Europe festival in Berlin this weekend, saying in a written message: "We are proud that people of varied origins and predilections feel at home in our city and celebrate together."

A top regional official with the conservative Christian Democrats described the message from Wowereit, a gay member of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder 's Social Democrats, as "unspeakable." "Glorifying violence and sadomasochistic excesses is to begin opting out of society," said Nikolas Zimmer, the Christian Democrats' leader in the Berlin state legislature.

His Social Democrat counterpart, Michael Mueller, said the conservatives were blowing up the incident in campaigning for September 18 elections. In an interview with the Bild daily newspaper, Wowereit himself shrugged aside the criticism. "A greeting message is always an advertisement as well, above all for international guests--we want to see them in Berlin," he was quoted as saying. "If this doesn't suit anyone, they don't have to go."

"Mr. Zimmer is small-minded," Wowereit said, according to the paper. "Berlin is open; Mr. Zimmer has to learn that.... And so long as nothing forbidden is happening, I expect tolerance." (AP)

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