Germany’s SPD calls for gay marriage vote after Merkel softens stance

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-left rivals said Tuesday they would seek a parliamentary vote this week on legalizing gay marriage after the German leader backed off her conservatives’ long-standing refusal to budge on the issue.

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001. Other European countries have since allowed full gay marriage, but much of Merkel’s conservative bloc remained reluctant until now.

Merkel said Monday that she could see lawmakers taking up the issue in the future as a “decision of conscience,” deciding in a free vote rather than along party lines. That comment came ahead of a Sept. 24 election in which all of Merkel’s potential coalition partners, including the center-left Social Democrats of her challenger, Martin Schulz, are calling for same-sex marriage to be legalized.

Parliament’s upper house and the opposition Greens and Left Party have proposed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage, but it has been stuck in the lower house’s legal affairs committee because the current “grand coalition” government of Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats was divided.

The Social Democrats leapt on Merkel’s comments, which came as the outgoing parliament — in which there’s likely a majority for gay marriage — prepares for its last session this week. Read more via AP