German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she now supports a free parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage. She said the change of heart came after meeting a lesbian couple and their eight foster children.
The reality is that Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, which has traditionally opposed marriage equality, is bowing to social and political pressure to change their stance. The move follows decisions to grant special humanitarian visas to gay and bisexual men fleeing the purge in Chechnya and to annul 50,000 historic convictions for homosexuality made under Nazi-era laws.
A poll conducted earlier this year shows that over 75% of the German population want full marriage equality and other polls show support as high as 82%.
Merkel is now three months out from an election where her famously anti-marriage equality stance could cost her dearly. She went to the last election four years ago opposing marriage equality on the grounds that it would negatively affect adopted children. Right-wing elements of her party still oppose a move towards full marriage equality.
Potential coalition partners, including the Social Democrats (SPD), have made marriage equality a condition of forming a coalition after the September 24 election and opponents are expected to weaponise the issue during the campaign.
“If the youth welfare service entrusts a lesbian couple with eight foster children, then the state could no longer use child welfare as an argument against adoptions,” the Los Angeles Times reports Merkel saying at a Monday event for Brigitte magazine.
Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz jumped on the comments and called for a vote in parliament this week. A bill has been introduced to parliament which will grant same-sex couples full marriage and adoption rights and a vote has been set for Friday.
Same-sex couples have been able to enter civil unions since 2001, which grant some of the rights of marriage. Germany allows step-child adoptions and successive adoptions but couples cannot adopt a child together.
The same-sex marriage bill is expected to pass comfortably.