German Parliament backs same-sex marriage, despite Christian party's resistance

Saturday, 01 Jul, 2017

People celebrate outside the Chancellery in Berlin after lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

Just a few days after Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her opposition to a vote, a clear majority of German MPs have voted to legalise same-sex marriage giving gay couples full marital rights, and allows them to adopt children.

Gay and lesbian activists waving rainbow flags cheered in joyful celebration Friday (June 30) as Germany's parliament legalised same-sex marriage, a victory in a decades-old rights struggle.

Same-sex marriage became a hot election topic after three parties - the Social Democrats (SPD), the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens - each made it a condition for joining any future coalition with Merkel's conservatives, effectively forcing her hand.

It might surprise some casual Germany watchers that the country, often thought of as forward-thinking and generous on issues like welcoming refugees, was lacking same-sex marriage.

"For me, marriage in the basic law is marriage between a man and a woman and that is why I did not vote in favour of this bill today", Merkel said after the vote. Still, Merkel herself ultimately voted no. She opened the door to a vote, instructing lawmakers to vote their conscience and saying that she wasn't against the idea in principle.

Pressure had been building in Germany to legislate for marriage equality since the 2015 Irish referendum, after which a poll showed two thirds of Germans in favor of a similar move.

Merkel said she was among those who voted "no". She allowed the vote knowing marriage would pass, pissing off conservatives, and then voted no, pissing off liberals. All we had to say to the West German government was, "We're boyfriends", and I was allowed to join him. Members of the CDU's more conservative sister party in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, have also been vocally opposed to any change, with one CSU politician tweeting this week that the law change represented "further disintegration of the social order".

Germany now recognizes civil partnerships for same-sex couples, which guarantees most of the benefits as married heterosexual couples.

On Tuesday, after much buzz on social media, the SPD leader and candidate for the chancellory Martin Schulz took Merkel at her word and broke coalition ranks to call for an immediate vote.