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German lawmakers vote to legalize same-sex marriage

BERLIN -- German lawmakers have voted to legalize same-sex marriage in a snap vote only days after Chancellor Angela Merkel changed her longstanding position.

Lawmakers voted 393 for legalizing "marriage for everybody" and 226 against with 4 abstentions.

Merkel herself voted against the measure, but paved the way for Friday's vote after saying Monday that lawmakers could take up the issue as a "question of conscience" -- freeing members of her conservative coalition, which has been against same-sex marriage, to individually vote for it.

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but same-sex marriages remained illegal until Friday's vote.

All of Merkel's potential coalition partners after the Sept. 24 election, including the center-left Social Democrats of her challenger, Martin Schulz, have been calling for same-sex marriage to be legalized. 

Friday's session was the last planned for Germany's Bundestag, or parliament, until the election is held in September.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of the lower house of parliament Bundestag vote on legalising same-sex marriage, in Berlin, Germany, June 30, 2017.

REUTERS

Merkel sid she voted against same-sex marriage because she believes the country's law sees it as between a man and a woman, but that the opposite view must be respected.

"For me marriage as defined by the law is the marriage of a man and a woman," she said, adding that she continues to see the interpretation as a "decision of conscience."

The measure, which is expected to see legal challenges, also opens the door for gay couples to adopt -- which Merkel says she supports.

Merkel said on Monday that meeting a lesbian couple several years ago in her constituency, who have fostered eight children, helped to ease her opposition to same-sex marriage. The adoption of children by same-sex couples had been one of her concerns prior to meeting the family, Merkel said.

Germany has joined many other European nations where same-sex marriage is already legal, including Spain, Britain and France.