Gay marriage vote looms after Merkel shift
Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) are pushing for a vote this week to legalise gay marriage, capitalising on a surprise shift from conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel three months before an election.
The issue became a hot election topic after Merkel’s three potential coalition partners made it a condition for sharing power, effectively forcing her hand.
At an event hosted by women’s magazine Brigitte on Monday evening, Merkel said she had taken note of other German parties favouring same-sex marriage and would allow a free vote.
“I would like to lead the discussion more into a situation where it is a question of conscience rather than something I push through with a majority vote,” she said.
The move could antagonise some in her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc, some of whom oppose any change. Merkel has previously argued against same-sex marriage.
SPD leader Martin Schulz said on Tuesday his party would push for a vote in parliament this week, before the start of the summer recess.
“I hope our colleagues in the conservatives will cooperate,” he said, raising the pressure on his conservative partners - who want a vote after the election.
Schulz needs to make up ground for his centre-left party in the election race and has sharpened his attacks on Merkel, but he made clear he would not end the coalition.
Merkel’s conservatives accused him of acting irresponsibly.
“That is a breach of trust,” said Volker Kauder, head of Merkel’s conservative bloc in parliament, adding the SPD’s behaviour on such a sensitive topic showed it was “not suited to government”.
With broad support among Germans for gay marriage, the law would likely get easy approval in the lower house of parliament if conservatives could vote according to their conscience and not face a party whip.