Germany’s parliament has voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage, granting full marital rights to homosexual and lesbian couples and clearing the path for them to adopt children.
The bill was passed by 393 votes to 226, with many conservative MPs voting in favor of the degree. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had opened the door to the snap vote earlier this week, voted against the change, sticking to her long-held beliefs.
“For me, marriage as it’s meant in the structure, is marriage between a man and a women, and that’s why I voted against nowadays,” Merkel said after the vote. “It was a long, intense and emotionally touching debate. That’s suitable for me personally as well. That’s why I hope that with this vote we were able to create not only mutual respect between the different positions but also a bit more peace and unity in society.”
The vote came just days after Merkel’s comments at a live event, during which she said she wanted to slip the discussion approximately marriage equality towards a decision of conscience fairly than imposing a party line, hinting, in effect, that her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party would drop its opposition to a vote on marriage equality.
The slip to allow a vote was already a meaningful shift for Merkel who had previously said she had a “tough time” with the issue, and had “difficulties” with giving homosexual and lesbian couples the right to adopt. Her party went into the 2013 election opposed to equal marriage and same-sex adoptions over concerns for a child’s wellbeing. Just two years ago, the chancellor defined marriage as “coexistence between a man and a woman”.
During Monday’s event, Merkel also shared the record of a lesbian couple she met in her domestic constituency, who she said had contributed to shifting her views on marriage equality. The chancellor said she had been invited to dinner by the couple who were caring for eight foster children, and saw that the children were well cared for. She described the encounter as a “life changing experience”.
“whether the youth welfare service entrusts a lesbian couple with eight foster children, then the state could no longer utilize child welfare as an argument against adoptions,” Merkel said.
The main opposition parties jumped on Merkel’s comments, forcing the issue onto the parliamentary agenda. The Chancellor was left with no choice but to allow a free vote to hold set without voting directions for her MPs.
On Wednesday, the bill was officially approved for a vote by the parliament’s legal affairs committee, which had blocked the bill 30 times in the past.
Despite catching many by surprise, Merkel’s remarks on Monday did not advance out of the blue. The Social Democrats (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Greens, with whom Merkel will likely to fill to negotiate to form a coalition after September’s election, had utter said that marriage equality would be one of the conditions to forming a government.
Merkel knew this would be an issue during the election campaign, and the leadership of the CDU and sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) had already been talking approximately their position, an official told BuzzFeed News. Merkel was also aware that there was a clear parliamentary majority for same-sex marriage, and that a vote would need to hold set in the near future.
However, the same official said the Chancellor didn’t intend for a vote to hold set as early as this week, and would fill preferred the issue to be preceded by a more substantive parliamentary debate.
In an interview with the a German publication WirtschaftsWoche on Wednesday, Merkel called the disagreement with the SPD, “gloomy” and “totally unnecessary.”
On its fragment, the SPD had limited sympathy for the CDU’s position. The party’s chairman Thomas Oppermann told broadcaster ZDF ahead of the vote that marriage equality wasn’t an election tactic: “For us, marriage for utter is a question of conviction.”
A poll released ahead of the vote found that three quarters of Germans, including the huge majority of CDU/CSU supporters (73%), backed same-sex marriage, while 72% had welcomed Merkel’s decision to allow a free vote among her party’s MPs.
Germany will join a dozen other European countries in having same-sex marriage: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, France, the Republic of Ireland, and the UK (apart from Northern Ireland and Jersey). The change will hold effect later this year after the bill is signed into law by the country’s president.