On Friday, Germany joined many other European nations by legalizing same-sex marriage. Leftist parties and gay activists supported the legislation, while it was opposed by some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative party and by the Catholic Church.
Merkel surprisingly allowed members of her party to vote their conscience on the issue instead of demanding party loyalty. Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in office, voted against the bill.
Following the vote, hundreds of gay activists celebrated outside the Bundestag lower house of parliament, waving rainbow flags and signs that read “Marriage for all – make love for all”.
“This is simply a historic day for Germany,” said Soeren Landmann, a marriage equality activist. “Today, thousands of same-sex couples were given equality, and the two-class society in matters of love was abolished. Germany can really rejoice today.”
According to Reuters, “The vote has particular resonance in Germany as it unwinds a legacy of virulent homophobia. Earlier this year parliament agreed to grant compensation to thousands of gay men jailed under a 19th century law that was strengthened by the Nazis and only dropped in 1969 when homosexuality was decriminalized in West Germany.”
Merkel, whose reelection bid will be decided Sept. 24, said she had voted against the legislation because she believed that marriage, as defined under German law, was between a man and a woman.
The chancellor said that her decision was personal, and noted that she had become convinced in recent years that same-sex couples should be permitted 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.
A poll released this week by INSA revealed that three quarters of Germans favored the legalization of same-sex marriage.
In the German parliament, 393 votes were cast by lawmakers in favor of same-sex marriage and 226 against, with four abstentions.
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