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The German parliament has today voted to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the fourteenth European country to do so.
It passed 393 votes to 226, though Chancellor Angela Merkel — long an opponent of same-sex marriage — voted against it.
Speaking after the vote, she told reporters: “For me, marriage in German law is marriage between a man and a woman and that is why I did not vote in favour of this bill today.
“I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace.”
The vote came as something of a political surprise, despite polls showing more than 80% of Germans support same-sex marriage.
Earlier this week, Merkel told German magazine Brigitte that she would allow a vote on the issue at some point in future. Merkel said she’d had a “life-changing experience,” the BBC reports, after having dinner with a lesbian couple who had fostered eight children together.
Merkel’s political opponents seized on the issue, calling for a vote before the German parliament breaks for summer, leading Merkel to claim she had been “ambushed” into Friday’s vote in an interview with Wirtschaftswoche magazine.
Merkel does, however, support the right for same-sex couples to adopt, which was also legalized along with same-sex marriage.
Green Party member Volker Beck called the vote “a success for democracy,” while Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrats, said it meant “unity, justice and freedom” for all Germans, Deutsche Welle reports.
Justice Minister Heiko Mass, a fellow Social Democrat, mocked Chancellor Merkel’s signature hand gesture in a Twitter video:
— Heiko Maas (@HeikoMaas) June 30, 2017
Despite Merkel’s opposition to same-sex marriage, some have called her decision to allow the vote a smart political move ahead of September’s general election.
The BBC’s Jenny Hill said that, despite her no vote, Merkel will “go down in history as the chancellor who made it possible.”
“By voting against it, Mrs Merkel has appealed to the more conservative members of her electorate,” Hill wrote. “But, by allowing it to happen, she’s cemented her growing reputation as a defender of liberal values and, perhaps more importantly, seen off an issue which might have come to haunt her later on.”
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