Angela Merkel’s Tactical Move Could Open The Door To Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage In Germany

"Thank you Angela Merkel! How liberating!"

Though Germany introduced civil unions for gay and lesbian couples back in 2001, the country still doesn't recognize their right to legally marry. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently made an announcement that could change that — very soon.

According to BuzzFeed News, on June 26 at an event for Brigitte, a women's magazine, Merkel was asked about gay marriage. "I would like to orient the discussion in a direction which raises the question of a decision according to conscience rather than imposing anything," she replied.

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Merkel's statement is tactful to say the least. As a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party (which tends to favor the "family values" approach), she has opposed gay marriage in the past, as does a large portion of the party's base, and isn't actually forcing her party to endorse anything. The "conscience vote" she mentioned would permit legislators to vote according to their own personal conscience rather than according to an official line set down by their political party.

And the political strategy doesn't end there. With national elections approaching in September, many feel Merkel's decision to soften her stance on gay marriage was a calculated move. According to The New York Times, Merkel's current coalition partners — the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democratic Party — may very well be part of her government after the September elections. The aforementioned main parties of Germany have made their support contingent on backing for same-sex marriage.

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CNN reports a snap vote in the German parliament is scheduled for Friday, June 30. Given the widespread political support of gay marriage, the measure is expected to easily pass through parliament.

Merkel's statement is already garnering praise from politicians in her country, including some from her own, more conservative party.

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"Thank you Angela Merkel! How liberating! For me, we could vote this week!" openly gay CDU MP Stefan Kaufmann tweeted.

"This is a sign that my party is changing," Mr. Kaufmann tells The New York Times, estimating about 40 percent of his Christian Democratic colleagues favored allowing same-sex marriage.

If polls are any indication, Merkel's shift will most likely be supported by the majority of German people. A YouGov poll conducted in May found 66 percent of nearly 1,110 respondents were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, with 57 percent saying that adoption by gay couples should be allowed.

For many, Merkel's change of heart is proof positive that political pressure works. Axel Hochrein, a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, explains to The New York Times, "This shows that the political and social pressure on the government had become so big that she had to react. With three possible coalition partners now declaring that the opening of marriage must be in the coalition contract, perhaps she wants to solve the problem before it appears after the election."

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