German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she would like her country’s parliament to move towards a “vote of conscience” on the introduction of same-sex marriage in Germany Monday.
Merkel’s comments indicate a shift in ideology for the German conservative party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which historically has favored traditional values and opposed same-sex marriage.
The chancellor’s comments came after a gay man asked whether he would be able to call his partner “my husband,” at a Berlin event hosted by the women’s magazine Brigitte, according to CNN.
Merkel responded by acknowledging that a large segment of the German voting constituency supports gay marriage and suggested that a free vote on same-sex marriage might reach parliament in the near future.
“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,” said Germany’s biggest LGBT campaigning group — “Lesben-und Schwulenverband” — in a Tuesday statement. “Equal rights for all people are a requirement of our basic law … We want to live in a country where lesbians and gay men are no longer discriminated against.”
After Merkel’s comments, many German politicians encouraged her to hold a vote right away. “We will push through marriage equality in Germany,” tweeted Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) Tuesday morning.
With September’s election on the horizon, Merkel faces increasing pressure to take action on gay marriage, and her two main rivals both recently adopted “marriage for all” campaigns.
Gay rights have always been a controversial issue within the CDU, and it is an even more hotly debated topic among its more conservative sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). “The marriage of man and woman is under special protection because it is fundamentally oriented toward creating new life. This is not the case in homosexual relationships,” the German parliament CSU whip said.
Merkel looks to capture the votes of young Germans with more liberal values, as well as those of the traditional CSU party, both of which she needs in order to win the September election.
They are “much more sensitive to this issue” than other voters said Anja Neundorf, associate professor at the University of Nottingham, who thinks that some of those voters will not like Merkel’s new stance on gay marriage and will not vote because of it.
Same-sex couples in Germany can enter into civil unions but cannot marry, and are not allowed to jointly adopt children.
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