Germany legalises same-sex marriage
Civil unions and equal marriage rights are now common across the West, but remain rare in Africa and Asia
“THINGS take longer to happen than you think they will,” the economist Rudiger Dornbusch once said, “and then they happen faster than you thought they could.” In the 16 years since Germany granted legal partnership rights to homosexual people, 13 European countries, including the Republic of Ireland, long a Catholic redoubt, began permitting homosexual couples to marry. But equal marriage rights never even came up for a debate in the German Bundestag until June 26th, when Angela Merkel, the country’s chancellor, publicly reversed her opposition to a free vote on same-sex marriage. The opposition grasped the chance and insisted on a snap vote. Once on the floor, a proposed amendment to existing legislation, allowing homosexuals both to marry and to adopt children, sailed through the lower house on June 30th. Germany is now the 24th country in the world to authorise same-sex marriage.
Germany was once a homosexual-rights pioneer. It was the eighth country to approve civil unions for same-sex partners. But Angela Merkel, its chancellor since 2005, leads the socially conservative Christian Democrats, and had opposed a vote on homosexual marriage because of concerns about “children’s welfare”. Only this week did she announce she had changed her mind, reportedly after having dinner with a lesbian couple who had fostered eight children.
Shifting political winds may also have played a role in her conversion. The leader of the Social Democrats, her main rival in Germany’s forthcoming election, had made his support for same-sex marriage a central campaign issue. And the public is on his side: according to the most recent poll by YouGov two-thirds of Germans support homosexual marriage, and more than half are in favour of allowing homosexuals to adopt as well.
Now that Germany is on board, same-sex marriage has become standard across much of the West. It has also been implemented by at least one country on every inhabited continent. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Asia and Africa are yet to approve even civil unions, a common precursor to full marriage rights. Campaigners are now likely to turn their attention to those heavily populated regions.