Germany’s parliament voted by a wide margin on Friday (30 June) to legalise same-sex marriage after Chancellor Angela Merkel did an about-face that freed members of her ruling conservative bloc to follow their personal conscience rather than the party line.
Merkel, who will seek a fourth term in a national election on 24 September told reporters after the landmark decision that she had voted against the measure because she believed that marriage as defined under German law was between a man and a woman.
But she said her decision was a personal one, adding that she had become convinced in recent years that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.
“I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between the different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace,” Merkel said.
The parliament voted by 393 votes in favour of same-sex marriage to 226 against.
Many other European countries, including France, Britain and Spain, have already legalised same-sex marriage.
Merkel’s announcement on Monday (26 June) that she would allow lawmakers to vote on same-sex marriage according to their individual conscience drew the ire of some in her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc.
But political analysts say the issue will likely have faded from voters’ minds by the time the September election comes around.
Friday’s vote marks a rare victory for Merkel’s Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners, who are trailing the conservatives in opinion polls. They had seized on Merkel’s surprise comments on Monday to say they would push for an early vote before parliament’s summer recess.
Success in passing the so-called “marriage for all” amendment could provide a sorely needed boost for the centre-left SPD, which has seen a short-lived boost in the polls earlier this year evaporate in recent months.
The measure will likely be signed into law by the president some time after 7 July .
“After years of waiting and hoping, rainbow families in Germany will now receive equal recognition under the law – this is a historic milestone that can inspire even more change for LGBTI people.” commented ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis.
“This result has taken years of persistence - and now there is momentum in Germany. Marriage equality is not the final destination. LGBTI people and their families need to feel safe and supported in every facet of their lives –outside the civil registry office, as well as inside it.” Evelyne Paradis continued.
Party of European Socialists secretary general and Bundestag member Achim Post:
“I am proud that, by approving marriage equality today, Germany has taken another important step on the road to full equality of rights and opportunities for same-sex couples. I am also proud that this is thanks to a bold campaign by the SPD and was passed with cross-party support.”