BERLIN • Germany legalised same- sex marriage yesterday despite the personal objections of Chancellor Angela Merkel, as the nation joined many other Western democracies in granting gay and lesbian couples full rights, including adoption.
The election-year Bill was pushed by Dr Merkel's leftist rivals, who pounced on comments she made early this week suggesting a policy U-turn - a manoeuvre that left her conservative lawmakers fuming.
Dr Merkel allowed MPs of her Christian Democratic Party to vote their conscience on the Bill rather than follow the party line, which has for years been to oppose the reform.
The gay marriage law passed by a margin of 393 to 226 on the Parliament's last day before the summer recess - a moment jubilant supporters celebrated by throwing confetti in the Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament.
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Outside, hundreds of gay activists celebrated by waving rainbow flags and placards that read "Marriage for all - make love for all".
Marriage equality activist Soeren Landmann said: "This is a historic day for Germany. Today, thousands of same-sex couples were given equality, and the two-class society in matters of love was abolished."
The reform reflects German public opinion, with polls showing three-quarters support granting full marriage rights to same-sex couples, who have since 2001 been allowed to live in so-called civil unions.
But Dr Merkel said she had voted against the legalisation out of her personal conviction.
"To me, marriage as defined in the German Constitution means the marriage between husband and wife, and that is why I voted against the law today," she said.
She did, however, say her thinking had changed on the question of child adoption by same-sex couples, which she had long opposed.
She added: "I have thought a lot about the matter of child welfare and have now... come to the conviction that same-sex couples should be able to jointly adopt children."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS