Merkel U-turns on gay marriage
German chancellor Angela Merkel has paved the way for gay marriage to be legalised after she called for a free vote in parliament.
The announcement represents a U-turn for Merkel, who has previously opposed same-sex marriage, arguing that she was concerned for children.
A vote could now be held as early as next week with a majority of MPs reportedly in favour of the reform.
Merkel described a “life-changing experience” when she met a lesbian couple in her constituency who adopted eight children.
It was suggested the general election in September might have influenced the decision. The main opposition Social Democrats (SPD) pledged to legalise gay marriage and polling suggests more than 80 per cent of Germans are in favour.
While civil partnerships have been available to homosexual couples since 2001, gay marriages are not recognised.
The conservative wing of Merkel’s Christian Democrat Union (CDU) has been the main obstacle to legalisation.
“I want to change the discussion to a decision of conscience, rather than something I can direct with a whipped vote,” Merkel said.
She made the comments in response to a question at an event held by women’s magazine Brigitte. A gay man asked whether he could refer to his partner as “my husband” in the future. Merkel acknowledged the widespread support for gay marriage and suggested a free vote on same-sex marriage could be held.
“If the state gives a homosexual couple children to take care of, I can no longer argue this issue simply on the question of child welfare. These are issues that greatly concern me.”
She asked for “respect for those for whom it is hard to make such a decision”.
The Lesben-und Schwulenverband, Germany’s biggest LGBT group, welcomed the move.
“The LSVD welcomes the fact that after 15 years of an ideological blockade, Mrs Merkel and the Christian Democratic Union are ready to make some progress on the issue of same-sex marriage,” the group announced.
The moves outflanked the SPD had made a pledge to legalise gay marriage a central plank of its election manifesto.
Martin Schulz, the SPD chief, called for a vote before the end of the current parliament.
“We will push through marriage equality in Germany this week,” he tweeted.
“Angela Merkel made a move yesterday and we are taking her at her word,” her main rival said. “The change of heart should be acted on this week.”
No vote is expected soon with the risk of angering the right-wing of her own party and its socially conservative Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union.
Cologne Pride parade 2015. Picture credit: Wikimedia