Angela Merkel has dialed back her opposition to same-sex marriage, saying that she will no longer instruct her party to oppose legislation to legalise equal marriage in Germany.

German Chancellor Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has long prevented same-sex marriage legislation from passing in the country’s legislature, but Merkel seems to have softened on the issue, arguing that politicians should be free to vote based on personal beliefs rather than the party line.

Civil partnerships have been legal in Germany since 2001, but gay couples are still unable to marry.

When asked about equal marriage yesterday (June 26), Merkel replied: “I would like to steer the discussion more towards the situation that it will be a question of conscience instead of me forcing something through by means of a majority vote.”

Merkel also spoke about a “life-changing experience” she had while meeting a lesbian couple who have adopted eight children. Merkel is up for re-election this year, and if she wins she will secure a fourth term.

Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), challenged Merkel to bring the issue to a vote sooner rather than later. “We believe that one doesn’t have to delay a decision based on conscience,” Schulz said. “It can also be made this week.”

Merkel’s statement marks a change from her previous views. In a 2015 interview with German YouTube star LeFloid, Ms Merkel said that she opposed discrimination, but she was satisfied that Germany’s current legislation gave same-sex couples some of the same legal rights as married couples.

“I’m someone who is very supportive of us eliminating all discrimination,” Ms Merkel said. “We have come a long way; when I remember, 25 years ago, many people didn’t dare to say that they are gay or lesbian.

“Luckily we overcame this; you can enter a partnership, a civil partnership.”

She continued: “For me, personally, marriage is a man and a woman living together. That is my concept, but I support civil partnerships.”

Finally she added: “I support us not discriminating against them when it comes to taxes, and to remove any other discrimination wherever we may find it.”

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