A Bundeswehr commander’s Tinder ad aroused the anger of her superiors. Dating online is actually a private matter – but servicewomen and men must also have integrity when they are off duty, a court emphasized.
How freely are soldiers of the Bundeswehr allowed to appear privately on the Internet? Such a case has now ended up in court, and the decision sets limits to freedom of movement: According to this, a high-ranking Bundeswehr commander must be cautious in her private appearance on a dating portal on the Internet. The 2nd Senate of the Federal Administrative Court decided on Wednesday that she should not choose her words in such a way that her reputation as a soldier would be damaged (file no.: BVerwG 2 WRB 2.21).
This Tinder ad went too far for the supervisor at the Bundeswehr
The case involved commander Anastasia Biefang, who advertised in a Tinder ad in 2019 with the words: “Spontaneous, lusty, trans*, open relationship looking for sex. All genders welcome.” That went too far for the Bundeswehr, and her disciplinary superior reprimanded her. At the time, Biefang was commander of Information Technology Battalion 381 in Storkow. She resisted the disciplinary action.
Biefang is well known throughout Germany, including through a documentary film that accompanied her transition process. She is considered the first openly transgender female battalion commander in the German armed forces.
The troop service court in the lower court had already confirmed the reference. It saw a violation of the duty of servicewomen and men to behave “properly” outside of duty. The wording in the Tinder ad raised doubts about the moral integrity of the commander.
The military service senate of the Federal Administrative Court confirmed the decision in principle. The behavior of the soldier does not immediately damage the reputation of the entire Bundeswehr. However, she had failed in her duty to protect her own reputation. As a commander with 1,000 employees, Biefang held a particularly representative position.
“We think that a commander must also choose his words on the Internet,” said the presiding judge Richard Häußler in the verdict. “Formulations that raise doubts about the character’s integrity must be avoided.”
Biefang reacted disappointed at the decision. She still does not know what should have been misleading about her portrayal, said the 47-year-old. “In the future, I’ll probably have my managers check my profiles to see if that’s legal.” Biefang, who has the rank of lieutenant colonel, is now head of department in the Cyber and Information Space Command in Bonn.
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