The German legislature has voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a snap vote, just a few days after Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her party’s opposition to the measure.

Earlier this week, Angela Merkel said she would allow Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmakers a free vote on the issue, paving the way for marriage equality for thousands of same-sex couples in Germany, where civil unions were legalised in 2001.

The Chancellor’s CDU-led government has long stood in the way of marriage equality owing to strong opposition from the conservative alliance’s right wing.

German MPs voted on the issue in the Bundestag just one day before the summer recess after it was put on the agenda on Wednesday by the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior coalition partner’s of Merkel’s CDU.

The measure was passed by 393 to 226, with Merkel herself voting against giving same-sex couples equal rights. She said that she hoped the bill’s passage would lead to “social peace”.

Merkel had previously expressed opposition to same-sex marriage, citing concerns for children, but claimed earlier this week that she had undergone a “life-changing experience” after meeting a lesbian couple who had adopted eight kids.

Some argue the Chancellor’s change in heart is politically motivated: She is seeking re-election for a fourth term in September, and as well as polls indicating widespread public support for the marriage equality, her SDP partners announced just last week that they would its legalisation a condition of any future coalition talks.

Same-sex couples in Germany are now free to marry, with the law reading: “Marriage is entered into for life by two people of different or the same sex.”

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