Germany's lower house of Parliament agreed Friday to tweak its civil code to legalize same-sex marriage, with one gay-rights advocate calling the moment a "joyous turning point," the Washington Post reports. The New York Times notes this places Germany, which legalized civil partnerships in 2001, among more than a dozen European countries, including France and Ireland, that permit same-sex marriages. One person in the "nay" column: Chancellor Angela Merkel. "For me, marriage in German law is marriage between a man and a woman and that is why I did not vote in favor of this bill today," she said, per the Independent. However, she did open the floor on the topic this week, calling for her Christian Democratic Union party to cast a vote according to "conscience."
"I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions, but also brings more social cohesion and peace," she said. The change takes place within a country that, while often touted for being progressive, has remained resistant to gay marriage in conservative circles. However, two major parties last weekend indicated they would base their support of Merkel's CDU in upcoming elections on this legislation, leaving some gay-rights champions annoyed that Merkel's sudden easing up on the issue likely had political undertones. "The result is wonderful, but it makes me a bit angry that the gays are just a voting group to be won," a gay IT worker tells the Post. The bill now moves to Parliament's upper house, then the desk of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. This means the country's first gay marriages will likely start to happen in the early fall.