Germany’s parliament has voted to legalise gay marriage, paving the way for same sex couples to obtain full legal equality.

The vote came in the Bundestag’s last sitting ahead of September’s election, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for a fourth term.

Earlier this week Ms Merkel publicly abandoned her opposition to an open vote on gay marriage. She nonetheless voted against the measure today. German public opinion is strongly in favour of equal rights for same sex couples and she did not want her party to be seen to oppose a change in the law, especially when the other big parties — the social democrats, Greens and the Left — are all committed to liberalisation.

Ms Merkel said she would like to move “in the direction of a conscience vote”. Civil partnerships have been legal in Germany since 2001.

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