German Chancellor Angela Merkel has suggested she will allow a free vote on legalising gay marriage – softening her stance ahead of the country’s general election.
It comes after other parties warned that an agreement on gay marriage would be a condition of any coalition deal with Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).
At an event hosted by women’s magazine Brigitte she said: “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 when asked about her position.
Germany’s Angela Merkel softens her opposition to gay marriage for the first time https://t.co/QbpcIOrm3r— AFP news agency (@AFP) June 26, 2017
With broad support among Germans for gay marriage, the law would likely get easy approval in the lower house if conservatives were given a free vote, rather than face a party whip.
The Social Democrats (SPD), currently junior partners in Merkel’s right-left coalition, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens all favour gay marriage.
Responding to the announcement, SPD leader Martin Schulz said on Tuesday his party would even push for a vote in parliament this week.
Polls put Merkel’s conservatives 10 to 15 points ahead of the SPD but short of a parliamentary majority.
She has previously argued against same-sex marriage for fear of antagonising the parliamentary block of Catholic conservatives in her party.
Same-sex civil partnerships have been allowed in Germany since 2001.
The LSVD association representing homosexuals welcomed what they said was a belated shift, but claimed it was a face-saving measure to exit a dead end.
He called for a vote in the Bundestag lower house to take place before the election.
“After 15 years of an ideological blockade, social pressure and the commitments of other parties have made an impact,” said LSVD spokesman Axel Hochrein.
“Equal rights for all people is part of our constitution,” he added.