The Cable

In Swift and Historic Shift, Germany Approves Same-Sex Marriage

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s abrupt willingness to take up the issue leads to swift action in German parliament.

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In one week, Germany has shifted its stance on gay marriage, with lawmakers overwhelmingly voting Friday to allow the practice.

As recently as last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) were opposed to same-sex marriage. But speaking on June 26, the chancellor said she was open to the practice. But members of the CDU said they did not expect a vote on the issue until after national elections, on Sept. 24.

The three-left leaning parties in German parliament —  the Greens, the Left Party and the Social Democrats — didn’t want to wait that long. On Friday morning, the lower house of Germany’s parliament approved four bills to allow marriage between same-sex couples by 393 votes in favor and 226 against. More than a quarter of CDU lawmakers voted for the laws. Merkel voted no, but praised the decision, saying she hoped it would create “a piece of social peace and togetherness.”

The vote ends a stunning week that saw the conservative wing of Merkel’s coalition — the Christian Social Union, based in Bavaria — turn against the chancellor after her she opened a path for the legalization of the practice. A day after her initial comments, Bavarian State Premier Horst Seehofer, a practicing Catholic, staunch conservative and leader of the CSU, accused Merkel of attempting to break up the coalition. Its members reacted angrily to Friday’s vote.

Merkel’s shift was clearly made with political calculations in mind, even though she voted against the measure. Her main challenger for the chancellorship, Social Democrat leader Martin Schulz, has long criticized her for her stance on same-sex marriage. During the 2013 national election, Merkel argued against gay marriage on the grounds of “children’s welfare” and said that she had a “hard time” with the issue.

During this election cycle, she shifted her position as public support for the practice surged.  A recent survey by the Germany’s anti-discrimination agency found that 83 percent of the German public favored marriage equality.

Outside the chancellery in Berlin, same-sex marriage backers celebrated the decision, which brings Germany in line with most Western nations.

“We woke up very early and we knew it was raining in Berlin, but we thought it is so important we have to come here,” Nico, a 20-year-old student who preferred to give only his first name, told CNN. “It is incredible, I can’t believe it. I think [Merkel] said it on Monday and today is Friday and we have a new law.”

Photo credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ/Getty Images

David Francis was a senior reporter for Foreign Policy, where he covered international finance. @davidcfrancis

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