A law allowing gay and lesbian couples
to marry took effect in Germany on Sunday.
The German parliament, or Bundestag,
approved the law in June with a 393 to 226 vote, making Germany the
14th European country and the 23rd worldwide to
extend marriage to gay couples.
For decades advocates have tried and
failed to gain such rights. But an opportunity to move on the issue
appeared suddenly when Chancellor Angela Merkel signaled that she
would support a free vote on marriage equality among her party
members. The window to act also appears to have been short lived as
German politics shifted to the right in last weekend's election.
Since 2001, Germany has recognized gay
and lesbian couples with civil partnerships. The new law offers
tangible benefits such as the right to adopt children and tax
advantages offered only to married couples.
Karl Kreile, 59, and Bodo Mendle, 60,
became Germany's first married gay couple when they exchanged vows in
the town hall of Schoeneberg, a borough of Berlin, after 38 years
According to the AP, about 120 people
packed into Schoeneberg town hall's “Golden Room” to witness the
“We have finally achieved legal
equality,” Mendle said at a news conference on Friday. “It's
been 25 years of hard struggle to secure this.”