The German parliament voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage, becoming the 14th European country to do so since the Netherlands became the first in 2001. The new bill also allows gay couples to adopt children.
In a snap vote June 30, the German parliament, or Bundestag, passed new legislation allowing gay couples to marry and adopt children by a margin of 393-226, according to Deutsche Welle.
Chancellor Angela Merkel was herself against the bill, but personally advocated for the possibility of a vote. Merkel said June 26 that she wanted the vote on gay marriage to be "one of conscience," thus encouraging her conservative party allies to vote freely.
Both the occurrence and timing of the vote came as a surprise, as it was held just a day before the Bundestag summer break and months before the upcoming September election. Merkel, who faces competition for the role of chancellor, softened her traditional marriage stance, and her Social Democrat opponent, Martin Schulz, immediately advocated for a quick vote before the break.
"If the Constitution guarantees one thing, it is that anyone in this country can live as they wish," said Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary leader of the Social Democrats, according to the New York Times. "If gay marriage is decided, then many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away."
The Social Democrats, Left Party and Green Party all unanimously affirmed the bill. Merkel’s conservative party opposed the bill 225-75, with four abstentions, according to DW.
"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," Merkel said, according to the New York Times.
Merkel, who has long held an anti-gay marriage stance during her tenure as chancellor, was said to come to the decision after a long personal battle.
"This is perhaps part of her religious education," said Axel Hochrein, a board member for Germany's Lesbian and Gay Federation. "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."
The bill still needs to be approved by the upper house of the Bundestag before being signed into law by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. It is expected to pass and become official by early fall.