On Friday, June 30, even as the lower house of the German parliament voted to legalise same sex marriages, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, voted against it.
“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 told reporters moments after the 393-266 vote in favour of an amendment that will legalise same-sex marriage. She, however, also added she hoped the parliament’s approval of the measure would encourage more social cohesion. “I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace”, she said.
The Chancellor also said she supported the bill’s provision of full adoption rights for same-sex couples – a move she had previously opposed.
The bill, which is due for an approval from the upper house next week, gives homosexual couples in Germany the same rights as heterosexual couples, including full marital rights and the ability to adopt children. Since 2001, same sex couples in Germany were allowed to form civil unions, but they could not marry or adopt children.
For years, opinion polls showed that a majority of Germans favoured allowing same sex marriages, but the CDU conservatives in power under Merkel consistently blocked the issue from coming to a Parliament vote. During her 2013 election campaign, Merkel had argued against gay marriage on the grounds of “children’s welfare”.
The chain of actions in favour of same sex marriages was set into motion last week when two major political parties made legalisation a condition for any future coalition agreements with the Christian Democrats. To the shock of German media, Merkel reacted swiftly by abandoning her party’s stance on the issue on Monday and dropping the opposition to a free vote. While she herself voted against the measure, the final result marked a jubilant victory for gay-rights groups.
The general elections in Germany are due in September, in which Merkel will be seeking a fourth term.