German Chancellor Angela Merkel in conversation with Brigitte editor in chief Brigitte Huber.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel might be facing a tough election for a fourth term in power in September, but that hasn’t stopped her changing her mind and coming out in favour of same-sex marriage, and, wait for it, a free vote in Parliament — a decision that has stunned Germany. And it looks like German parliamentarians will vote on the issue this Friday. So how’s that for speed, Turnbull?
Merkel had been opposed to the idea, and no one thought the issue would emerge in the run-up to September’s poll — even though the German public is overwhelmingly in favour. But on Monday night, three months before the election, at a forum sponsored by Brigitte, German’s biggest-selling women’s magazine, she revealed her about-face. Other big parties in the poll — the Social Democrats, Greens and the Left — all support changing the law (a bit like here in Australia).
The Financial Times reported that Merkel revealed her change of heart in a reply to a question at the forum.
“She said she would like to move ‘rather in the direction of a conscience vote than that I now push something through by a majority decision’. And she called for ‘respect’ for those ‘who find such a decision difficult’. But she indicated that she had changed her own mind since the last parliamentary election campaign in 2013 when she said she found ‘full equality’ difficult, especially with regard to adoption. On Monday, she said she had been moved by the example of a lesbian couple in her own north German constituency who had fostered eight children. ‘I can no longer so easily use the argument about the children’s wellbeing,’ she said.
As a result of her about-face, there are now calls for a parliamentary vote on the issue as soon as this week, before the Bundestag’s last sitting ahead of September’s election, but the Abbott-like dinosaurs tried a last-minute attempt to delay any vote until the new Parliament. It is a forlorn hope, as any bill is expected to easily pass the Bundestag on a free vote.
Now German media say the vote will be held on Friday. Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — the second largest party in Parliament — called for Parliament not to wait until after the federal election in September. “We will push through marriage equality in Germany,” he tweeted. “This week.” His party has long supported the idea, but it is trailing in the polls behind Merkel (after moving to an early lead at the start of the year).
As the FT points out:
“According to opinion polls, only around 20 per cent of Germans oppose gay marriage, down from 40 per cent 15 years ago. Thirteen of the 28 EU states have legalised gay marriage, since the Netherlands became the first nation in the world to do so in 2001. Gay marriage remains illegal in most eastern European member states.”
The Pew Research Centre meanwhile says an overwhelming number of Americans support gay marriage (62% versus 32% opposed). In 2011, the split on the issue was 46% to 44%. And a decade ago, 37% supported the idea, but 54% were opposed. Pew says 48% of Republicans oppose the idea, but 47% support it — the smallest the margin has been among this group.