German parliament votes to legalise same-sex marriage

MPs pass bill granting gay and lesbian couples full rights, including on adoption

Germanys parliament has voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, joining many other western democracies in granting gay and lesbian couples full rights, including adoption.

Norbert Lammert, president of the parliament, said 393 lawmakers voted in favour, while 226 voted against and four abstained.

Merkel said she voted against move because she believes marriage is for a man and a woman, and the decision for her was a personal one, but said she hopes the result will lead to greater social peace.

The election-year bill was pushed by Chancellor Angela Merkels leftist rivals, who pounced on a U-turn she made on Monday in which she softened her stance against gay marriage, a manoeuvre that left many conservative politicians fuming.

The lower house approved the law on Friday, hours before the Bundestag begins its summer recess.

Ahead of the vote, gay and lesbian groups cheered the push for marriage equality in Germany, where civil partnerships were legalised in 2001.

Its a real recognition, so it warms the heart, said French engineer Christophe Tetu, 46, who lives in Berlin with his partner Timo Strobel, 51.

Were thinking about having a party, getting married and using our new rights to protect our relationship.

Strobel said he too was overjoyed the couple would be able to show family and friends that we are committed to each other, that we will stay together and we will spend our lives together.

The law will probably take effect before the end of the year.

German parliamentarians vote to put the law on legalising same-sex marriage on the agenda. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Renate Knast of the Green party, which has pushed for decades for LGBT rights, quipped: I would advise all registry offices in the country to boost staff numbers.

The rapid series of events kicked off with an onstage interview Merkel gave to womens magazine Brigitte, in which an audience member asked her: When can I call my boyfriend my husband if I want to marry him?

Merkel, who long opposed gay marriage with adoption rights, citing the wellbeing of the children, replied that her thinking had shifted since she met a lesbian couple who cared for eight foster children.

She said she favoured a vote at an undefined time when all lawmakers could follow their conscience rather than a party line.

Many read the surprising comments as a move to deny opposition parties a strong campaign issue before the elections on 24 September.

Merkels coalition allies, the Social Democrats (SPD), as well as the Greens, far-left Linke and pro-business Free Democrats, declared a same-sex marriage law as a precondition for an alliance.

On Tuesday, after much buzz on social media, the SPDs chancellor candidate, Martin Schulz, took Merkel at her word and broke coalition ranks to call for an immediate vote, a move the CDU condemned as a breach of trust after four years of joint rule.

Merkel called the political ambush and rush to vote on such a weighty issue sad and, above all, totally unnecessary. But her change of stance left the rightwing populist Alternative for Germany as the only party to oppose same-sex marriage.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, a conservative daily, predicted that after the vote it will be said Angela Merkel has avoided another stumbling block to post-election coalition talks.

But the CDU will also have lost its right to be called a conservative party and instead now appears willing to throw any conservative values overboard in order to keep up with the times.

Markus Ulrich, of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, said Merkel had long argued against gay marriage in an emotional way and never with real arguments.

He added: Its very good that she took some time to better understand the reality of same-sex families and couples, in order to get a better picture of the situation. We think its very good and, even if this is happening only because of the electoral campaign, it doesnt matter.

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