Germany Set to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage After Controversial Vote

Reputable news agencies are reporting that Germany has legalized same-sex marriage, but the fact is the bill hasn’t been signed by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. That signature should come sometime after July 7, according to reports.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed the same-sex marriage bill, which now heads to the upper house of Parliament for formal approval before being sent to President Steinmeier. Merkel voted no after easing her party’s opposition to the vote and allowing representatives to “vote their conscience.”

She said in a statement:

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

The vote passed 393 to 226, with four people abstaining.

This vote is being celebrated as the legalization of gay marriage in Germany, but it’s better described as an overcoming of the largest hurdle still barring that right. Actual legalization is expected in July by some and in “early fall” by others.

Don’t get me wrong. This vote was still emotional and important. It is the beginning of true equality in Germany, one of the few European nations where same-sex marriage is still illegal. Ireland, France, and Spain already have similar laws.

The vote is also a win for secularization in Germany, where Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and other groups have long stood in opposition to same-sex marriages based on tradition. Registered life partnerships for gay couples, however, have been recognized in Germany since 2001.

Christine Lüders, the director of Germany’s anti-discrimination agency, hit back against the fundamentalist Christian groups and others who opposed the vote. She said it is “not about special rights for anyone, but about equal rights.”

I am certain that just a few years from now, as a society, we will look back on this decision on marriage equality and ask ourselves, “Why on earth did it take us so long?”

Why, indeed, is this taking so long? The United States, generally a socially conservative nation compared to much of Europe, approved marriage equality through the Supreme Court years ago. Several states did it on their own before that. And the rest of Europe seems to be on the acceptance bandwagon as well.

Germany, however, has lagged far behind other nations when it comes to eliminating homophobia through legislation. In fact, the German Parliament voted only last week to void the convictions of 50,000 men punished under an anti-gay law repealed in 1994.

I just hope this measure is promptly signed and that there is no conservative backlash against same-sex couples who seek to get married under the new law. Welcome to the 21st century, Germany!

(Image via Shutterstock)

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