Germany Will Decide On Same-Sex Marriage In Snap Vote

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Thanks to a change-of-heart from Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, German lawmakers will vote on same-sex marriage on Friday in a snap vote. Despite Germany generally being a socially progressive country, the ruling conservative party (Merkel's own party) has mostly avoided the issue of fully recognizing same-sex partnerships (legalized in 2001) as marriages over the years.

However, in a conversation on Monday in Berlin at an event hosted by Brigitte, a women's magazine, Merkel reportedly said that she was in favor of having a vote that allowed individual party members to vote on their own "conscience" rather than on the party platform:

I would like to steer the discussion more into the direction of a question-of-conscience vote rather than me forcing through [Parliament] a majority decision.

And Merkel's words travelled fast, according to CNN, with many politicians taking to Twitter to call for an immediate vote as opposed to waiting until after September's federal election. It was enough for Martin Schulz, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to tweet out "Wir werden die Ehe für alle beschließen. Diese Woche" meaning "We will decide for marriage for all. This week."

Prior to this year, Merkel's stance was that she was "not sure" about legalizing same-sex marriage because of issues of "children's welfare." As the LA Times reported on Tuesday, Merkel credited a "life-changing experience in [her] home constituency" — i.e. a nice dinner with a chill lesbian couple and their kids — for her evolution on the issue.

Though she was previously campaigning against same-sex marriage, like other conservatives in her party, based on the belief that LGBT parents wouldn't be suitable to raise adopted kids, she said that seeing the two married women and their eight foster children living happily and safely pretty much invalidated that argument, which had never been valid to begin with. As she said at the event in Berlin:

If the youth welfare service entrusts a lesbian couple with eight foster children, then the state could no longer use child welfare as an argument against adoptions.
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While the change of heart story is touching in a way, the frustration among LGBT advocates in the country is palpable after 12 years of inaction on the issue.

Experts also see the political advantage of Merkel announcing this ideological shift now. Her decision came three months before the federal election and voters are generally in support of marriage equality. As Thomas Jaeger, political scientist at Cologne University, told the LA Times:

Merkel switched her position now to prevent the [political opposition] from attacking her on it in the campaign. About 80% of the people in Germany are in favor and she's willing to take on a few hard-line conservatives in her own ranks.

Depending on how the vote goes, Germany could begin to catch-up with many other European countries that already provide equal rights (to marriage and joint adoption) for same-sex couples.