Just days after Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her long term opposition to a free vote on marriage equality, the German parliament voted convincingly to allow same-sex couples to marry and jointly adopt children.
The vote on Friday passed 393 to 226, with four members abstaining and marriage will now be defined as being “entered into for life by two people of different or the same sex."
The bill goes to the German upper house next week, where there is strong support for marriage equality and same-sex couples are expected to be able to marry by the end of the year.
Merkel announced afterwards that she had voted no to the bill.
"For me and the basic law, it's about the marriage of a woman and a man. That's why I voted against it," she said.
"I hope that the vote today shows not only the mutual respect for different opinions but that this also leads to more peace and social cohesion as well.”
Merkel’s announcement that she was dropping her opposition to a free vote three months before an election was seen to be politically motivated. Potential coalition partners, including the Social Democrats (SPD), had made marriage equality a condition of forming a coalition after the September 24 election and opponents were expected to weaponise the issue during the campaign.
Leader of the Social Democratic Party, Martin Schultz, who blindsided Merkel with the free vote days after she announced her change of heart, tweeted his congratulations after the vote. He also warned that members of Merkel’s government strongly oppose the change and could try to block it through the Federal Constitutional Court.
Marriage equality supporters waited outside the parliament, where they cheered and celebrated after the historic victory, which makes Germany the 23rd country to legalise same-sex marriage.
Markus Ulrich of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany said Merkel’s long-standing opposition to marriage equality and adoption rights was always voiced "in an emotional way and never with real arguments."
"It's 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 it's very good and, even if this is happening only because of the electoral campaign, it doesn't matter."
ILGA- Europe executive director, Evelyne Paradis, said "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.