The Social Democrats (SPD) are set to push for equal marriage rights for same-sex couples at a meeting on Wednesday with their coalition partners, Merkel’s conservative Union parties (CDU/CSU) - who have long opposed such legislation - according to a report on Tuesday by Funke Mediengruppe.
SPD representatives in the Bundestag (German parliament) plan to propose a reform for the Bundesrepublik, which is one of the few west European countries that does not allow same-sex marriage.
“In the future, marriage should be possible as well for same-sex couples,” the SPD promised in their proposal.
“I hope that the CDU and CSU can finally change their spots,” said SPD Bundestag leader Thomas Oppermann.
“Marriage should not be based on gender identity, but rather should only be about whether the partners want to be bonded together permanently, and take responsibility for one another.”
Since 2001, gay and lesbian couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships, and have gained many of the same benefits as married couples, often through court decisions rather than legislative reforms. But they do not have full marriage rights, such as being able to adopt children together.
The only way that same-sex couples can generally start a family together is through something called successive adoption - usually one partner adopting the biological or adopted child of the other.
The CDU and CSU parties have long been opposed to allowing same-sex marriage, blocking bills proposed by opposing parties.
“Marriage exists between a man and a woman. That’s what the Constitution assumes,” said CDU Bundestag leader Volker Kauder recently, according to Die Zeit.
“Same-sex couples are not discriminated against because they already can enter into civil partnerships. Other countries don’t have that.”
Merkel herself has expressed her opposition to full gay marriage rights time and again, reiterating these views in an interview with YouTube star Lefloid in 2015.
“For me, personally, marriage is the coexistence between a man and a woman," she told Lefloid. "But wherever we still see discrimination, we will challenge it further."
A magazine ad poking fun at the Chancellor's stance went viral in 2015 as it placed a Merkel lookalike in a lesbian relationship.
But with the national election approaching in September, Merkel's party is still concerned about the so-called "Schulz-effect" of her SPD challenger for the chancellery, Martin Schulz, who has attracted an online following among young, social media-savvy Germans. Thus pressure now from the SPD on an issue like same-sex marriage could be strategic.
And recent polls have shown that conservative politicians are apparently out of step with the public on the topic, even among their own supporters. A poll last year found that two-thirds of Germans supported legalizing same-sex marriage. And among just Union party voters, a majority of 61 percent also supported equal rights.
Such a measure could perhaps have even more significance in Germany than anywhere else in Europe: A study last year showed that more Germans identify as LGBT than anywhere else on the continent.