Germany has joined some of its progressive neighbors by legalizing same-sex marriage in a landmark piece of legislation. Days after Pride was celebrated in Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel made the surprise decision to let lawmakers vote their conscience and not the party line (Merkel, the daughter of a pastor, voted no), and now Germany joins neighbors France, Spain, and Great Britain as some of the Western European countries permitting same-sex marriage.
Earlier this year the German parliament agreed to compensate men who jailed under a former law that criminalized homosexuality that hadn’t been on the books since 1969.
Though she has said that marriage was (legally, in Germany) between a man and a woman, Merkel also has said LGBTQ couples should be free to adopt. “I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between the different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace,” she said. Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in a national election this September, said meeting a lesbian couple on the campaign trail convinced her to let legislators take the wheel on the topic.
Same-sex marriage had become one of the biggest issues in that upcoming election. It was brought to the forefront by two smaller, more liberal political parties which “each made it a condition for joining any future coalition with Merkel’s conservatives, effectively forcing her hand,” according to Reuters.
The law is expected to be signed some time next month with the first marriages starting in the fall.