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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, November 25, 2017

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Germany now in line with other European nations after parliament legalizes same-sex marriage

The historic vote was hailed by gay activists

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BERLIN, Germany - Germany joined the league of other European nations like France, Ireland, Britain and Spain after the country’s parliament backed the legalisation of same-sex marriage on Friday.

 

While the historic vote was hailed by gay activists and leftist parties, it drew massive criticism from opposers in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling conservative bloc and the Catholic Church.

 

Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, said in opening the floor debate, “If the Constitution guarantees one thing, it is that anyone in this country can live as they wish. If gay marriage is decided, then many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away.”

Lawmakers voted by 393 votes in favour of same-sex marriage to 226 against, with four abstentions.

 

The vote also came after Daily Bild carried out a survey by pollster INSA this week that showed three-quarters of Germans favoured the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

 

Following the vote, hundreds of gay activists, with painted faces and holding the LGBT rainbow flag and placards reading ‘Marriage for all - make love for all,’ celebrated outside the Bundestag lower house of parliament.

 

Earlier this week, Merkel surprised many after she decided to allow her lawmakers to follow their own conscience rather than the party line on the issue - drawing the ire of some in her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc.

 

Same-sex marriage became a hot election topic after three parties, including the Social Democrats (SPD) which is part of the current coalition and pushed for Friday’s vote, the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens made it a condition for joining any future coalition with Merkel's conservatives. 

 

Meanwhile, Merkel, who is seeking a fourth term in a national election on September 24, voted against the bill and reasoned in a brief statement after the vote that she had come to support the right of same-sex couples to adopt but believed that marriage, as defined under German law, was between a man and a woman.

 

Merkel said, “I hope that with today’s vote, not only that mutual respect is there between the individual positions, but also that a piece of social peace and togetherness could be created.”

 

She added that her decision was a personal one, adding that she had become convinced in recent years that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.

 

This week, Merkel also spoke of a "dramatic experience" when she told a lesbian in her home constituency how she had struggled with the idea of same-sex couples adopting children at an event hosted by women's magazine ‘Brigitte.’ 

 

Merkel narrated that the woman had responded, "I tell you what, come and visit me in my home, where I live with my lesbian partner and eight foster children. The foster children have been with us for many years, and I think they are doing well."

 

Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany who attended the parliamentary debate, said, “This is perhaps part of her religious education. I think it is more honest of her than to say yes. In the end, she fought for a long time against it and always argued it was in her feelings, and this was a feelings decision. It’s her decision.”

 

Meanwhile, the passing of the legislation contrasts with the experience of France and triggered mass street protests.

 

An independent lawmaker, Erika Steinbach, who quit Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in protest over her open-door policy towards asylum seekers accused Merkel of betraying the party's values in pursuit of electoral advantage.

 

Steinbach said in a statement, "It runs against the CDU's own party programme, which sees marriage as being between a man and a woman, so CDU decisions are clearly not worth the paper they are written on. It would be hard to exaggerate how excruciating this is.

 

Further, the right-wing, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party that has openly opposed marriage equality, accused the Chancellor of "abandoning the last conservative nuances her party had.”

 

The Catholic Church also reacted instantly, saying it regretted the decision.

 

Archbishop Heiner Kochof of Berlin said, "An appreciation of same-sex cohabitation can also be expressed by a different institutional design.”

 

The vote on Friday however, unwinds a legacy of virulent homophobia in Germany and came months after the parliament agreed to grant compensation to thousands of gay men jailed under a 19th-century law.

 

The law that was strengthened by the Nazis was dropped in 1969 when homosexuality was decriminalised in West Germany.

 

The Social Democratic Party, which is trailing the Conservatives in opinion polls marked a rare victory with the vote and its General Secretary Hubertus Heil accused Merkel of political cowardice over her decision to make the issue a matter of private conscience.

 

He said in a statement, "After 17 years with her at the top, the CDU has become cowardly. Hers is a politics of no conviction."

Political analysts argue that the issue will likely have faded from voters' minds by September when the country goes to the polls.

 

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is largely expected to sign the same-sex bill into law after the measure is taken to the upper house of Parliament for formal approval.

 

Germany’s first same-sex marriages are on track to be celebrated in the early fall.

 

BNN

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