Germany legalizes same-sex marriage
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Germany's lower house of Parliament voted 393-226 in favor of same-sex marriage June 30, just days after Chancellor Angela Merkel relaxed her opposition and allowed lawmakers to vote their conscience on the issue.
The vote paves the way for Germany to become the 23rd country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and the 15th in the European Union.
There were four abstentions to the vote, according to media reports.
Merkel voted against same-sex marriage, holding onto her belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, according to media reports. However, Merkel supports LGBT couples being able to adopt, which the same-sex marriage bill legalized.
Gay Star News reported that all of the Muslim members of Parliament voted in favor of same-sex marriage.
The vote was a victory for veteran gay rights activist and Green Party politician Volker Beck, 56, who ended his 23-year career that same day, reported Agence France-Presse.
The bill is nearly certain to be passed by the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house, next week. CNN reported that the upper house has previously approved legalizing same-sex marriage.
However, the potential for legal wrangling remains. Some Christian Democratic Union members believe the law is fundamentally flawed because it requires a change to the constitution, Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party, cautioned as he spoke outside Berlin's Brandenburg Gate Friday.
For the moment, Germany is in line with other European nations that have legalized same-sex marriage. LGBT advocates told the New York Times that approval of same-sex marriage in Germany could build momentum for similar legislation in other German-speaking countries, like Austria and Switzerland.
Germany legalized civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2001.
Historic day for LGBT Germans
Hundreds of LGBT Germans celebrated outside Merkel's office near the Reichstag building last week, capping off Pride Month on a jubilant note.
"We've been happily married for eight years, but we could never call it that," said Shoshana Brandt, 38, who stood alongside her partner and their son, reported the Denver Post. "We are happy and proud that we are now equal and we can live our love."
Soeren Landmann of the Marriage for All initiative also celebrated.
He told AFP that he had to go to Scotland to marry his husband last year because they couldn't get married in Germany.
"I am inconceivably happy that a couple that would like to get married won't have to go abroad for it anymore, and that they can now get married here in a very normal way," Landmann said.
The Lesbian and Gay Association, which has pushed for same-sex marriage since 1990, called the day historic for democracy.
"Germany has voted for love," association leaders said in a statement.
Marriage would from now on be based "not on gender but on love, commitment, and the promise to be there for each other in good times and in bad," the statement continued.
Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, and Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, applauded the news.
"We welcome the German people into the growing family of nations that ensure loving and committed same-sex couples have the right to marry," Cobb said in a statement from the organization.
"Love prevails once again as LGBTQ couples in Germany obtain the right to marry the person they love and build lasting, loving families in their communities," Ellis stated.
Cobb noted the challenges faced by the LGBT community around the world.
"With the very serious challenges the LGBTQ community continues to face around the world, this is welcome news and an important victory in working to ensure LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society," said Cobb.
Change of heart?
Merkel made the surprise announcement to open the same-sex marriage issue to a " vote of conscience" June 26, following urging from members of other political parties.
The same-sex marriage bill was added to Parliament's agenda at the last minute before lawmakers broke for the summer. USA Today reported that nearly every party in the lower house backed the bill.
The free vote on same-sex marriage came as a surprise to many political observers. They wondered about the sudden turnaround by Merkel or if it was a political ploy heading into campaign season leading up to Germany's September 24 elections.
While the decision to take up the vote was welcomed by liberal parties, political experts said it was a risky election ploy by Merkel.
Anja Neundorf, associate professor at the University of Nottingham, viewed Merkel's change of heart on marriage equality as an "appeal to the average German voter," she told CNN.
She said it could be a move that backfires among the votes she needs from her conservative supporters, particularly in Bavaria.
Her actions angered and caused concern among conservative elected officials – queer and straight – in Merkel's coalition government: her own Christian Democratic Union Party; the Alternative for Germany, which is co-led by lesbian Alice Weidel; and the Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union. The issue is so divisive that the politicians have openly expressed anger at her and are concerned over how their vote will affect their bids to keep their seats in office, reported the Hendelsblatt.
Merkel and her coalition partners have successfully blocked a vote on legalizing same-sex marriage for years.
The conservative parties ignored growing favor for marriage equality among lawmakers and the public in Germany to the point where the liberal Greens took the issue to Germany's highest court, which rejected the party's appeal June 22. However, the vote suddenly happened last week.
The Greens enjoy coalition support with center-left parties the Free Democrats and the Social Democratic Party.
Serbia elects gay, female prime minister
Serbia's parliament voted 157-55 June 29 for Ana Brnabic to become the country's prime minister.
It was a victory for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who nominated the political newcomer to take over from acting prime minister Ivica Dacic. Dacic, who formerly served as prime minister and is the current foreign minister, held the post through June following Vucci's election as Serbia's president.
Brnabic, 41, is a gay woman with less than a year in political office as a public administration minister. She has already signaled her pro-Russia position despite claiming that joining the European Union is her top priority.
Her list of proposed cabinet members includes pro-Russia and anti-Western ministers, including Dacic continuing as foreign minister and Aleksandar Vulin, a former labor minister, as the defense minister, reported ABC News.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1994, however, LGBT Serbians often face harassment in the conservative Orthodox country.
Got international LGBT news tips? Contact Heather Cassell at email@example.com.