- Germany has become the world’s 23rd, Europe’s 14th, and the EU’s 12th country to legalize full-fledged same-sex marriage.
- It had previously been recognizing civil partnerships since 2001.
- Legalization has been approved at a snap vote of the German Parliament.
- German Chancellor Merkel voted against the bill but had said she hoped it would be passed for the sake of ‘social peace’.
- She is criticized of wanting to remove the gay marriage issue from the campaign for the general elections in September.
- All of Merkel’s three potential coalition partners had demanded that same-sex marriage be legalized.
Germany has become the 23rd country in the world to legalize full-fledged same-sex marriages – even though it already recognized civil unions for gay couples.
Same-sex marriage is presently legally recognized in a total of 22 countries in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK, the US, and Uruguay – while some other countries recognize same-sex civil unions.
No countries in Asia have legalized gay marriage so far – although Taiwan is very likely to become the first country to do so, after in May 2017, its Constitutional Court found the ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.
Germany has thus also become the 12th EU member states, and the 14th European country to recognize gay marriage (the Netherlands became the first country to do so in 2001).
The vote in the German Parliament came just before the institution’s summer break and ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held in September.
Merkel’s Dual Stance
Homosexual couples in Germany will now be able to marry and adopt children under a new law passed by the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament, on Friday, Deutsche Welle reported.
The legalization decision is to enter into force as of the second half of 2017.
Germany had been recognizing registered same-sex partnerships which provided most of the rights as opposite-sex marriages since 2001.
The legalization of same-sex marriages became possible thanks to a snap vote that made it onto the parliamentary agenda before the summer break after a surprise shift by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The bill was passed by 393 to 226, with four abstentions. Merkel herself voted against the bill, although her comments helped bring it about.
More than 70 members of Merkel’s conservative bloc, the CDU-CSU, must have voted in favor of the bill for it to pass.
Merkel later explained her “no” vote by saying that she understood the definition of marriage in the German constitution as referring solely to unions between men and women.
However, she said that she hoped the vote to approve gay marriage would lead to “more social peace.”
Although she voted against homosexual marriage, she said that after long reflection, she had come to the conclusion that same-sex couples should be able to adopt children, which is something the new bill will legalize.
German Party Politics
The way for the gay marriage vote in the Bundestag was paved earlier this week, on Monday night, when Merkel said she wanted the issue to become one of “conscience,” suggesting that she would allow a free vote among her own divided party, the Christian Democrat Union and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.
Her rival for the role of chancellor in the upcoming elections, Martin Schulz of the Social Democrat Party (SPD) (with which Merkel is governing in a coalition at present) pounced on Merkel’s comments the next day, advocating an immediate vote in parliament, before September’s elections.
The bill was put on the agenda for the last day before the summer break by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Left party.
Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc had criticized the SPD’s move, saying that they had previously agreed not to hold a parliamentary vote on the issue during their coalition.
Schulz was quick to hail the outcome of the vote, saying that marriage for all meant “unity, justice and freedom” for all Germans who love each other, quoting from the German national anthem.
Even though Schulz had technically forced the snap vote on gay marriage, there have been comments that Merkel wanted to remove same-sex marriage as an issue in the September elections.
All three potential partners in government with the CDU – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and pro-business Free Democrats – had declared same-sex marriage as a red-line demand for entering into any future coalition.