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German parliament approves gay marriage bill

The German parliament, or Bundestag, has approved a bill that extends marriage to gay and lesbian couples, making Germany the 14th European country to do so.

According to Deutsche Welle, the bill passed with a 393 to 226 vote, with four abstentions.

"If the constitution guarantees one thing, it is that anyone in this country can live as they wish," Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary leader of the opposition Social Democrats, is quoted by The New York Times as telling colleagues. "If gay marriage is decided, then many will receive something, but nobody will have something taken away."

The opportunity to move on the issue appeared earlier this week when Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she would support a free vote on the issue among her party members.

Merkel was under increasing pressure to act on the issue from potential coalition partners that may emerge from September's upcoming election. Merkel herself, however, voted against the bill.

Since 2001, Germany has recognized gay and lesbian couples with civil partnerships.
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