On Friday, June 30th, 2017, German lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote passed 393 votes to 226, with four lawmakers abstaining. The bill in question allows for the same rights of marriage as heterosexual couples, as well as the right for same-sex couples to jointly adopt. This was the last chance for Parliament to vote on the issue before the summer recess.
This vote follows Chancellor Angela Merkel’s change of heart on the issue. Previously, she had strongly opposed a free vote (where members of Parliament vote as they wish rather than with the stance of their party) on the issue, saying she believed marriage to be between a man and a woman and arguing that she believed same-sex couples did not provide a safe and stable home for children. However, days ago she changed her opinion, allowing for this landmark vote. The bill must still pass through the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house. According to CNN, the bill will almost certainly pass, as the Bundesrat has expressed approval towards same-sex marriage in the past.
Following the vote, Chancellor Merkel made a statement to the press, where it was revealed that she voted ‘no’ on the issue. She stated, “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. However, she followed up by saying, “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.”
In regards to her decision to allow a free vote, Merkel stated days ago that politicians should take up the issue as a “question of conscience,” as well the position of the nation as a whole. This is especially important as two-thirds of the German population support same-sex marriage. With such overwhelming support on the issue, in her mind, it no longer made sense to limit the manner in which Parliament could vote.
Many are critical of Merkel’s change of heart, citing the pressure she is under with the September election looming. Her main rivals have maintained consistent support for same-sex marriage, utilizing the slogan Ehe für alle, meaning marriage for all. Furthermore, a number of parties in support of same-sex marriage, such as the left-leaning Green party, would not engage in any deals with Merkel unless marriage equality was on the table.