‘Merkel has not faced DUP-style vilification for her gay marriage views’

German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for the voting procedure to begin after a debate of the German parliament Bundestag on the gay marriage in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German chancellor Angela Merkel waits for the voting procedure to begin after a debate of the German parliament Bundestag on the gay marriage in Berlin. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Angela Merkel and others who opposed a new same-sex marriage law in Germany have not been treated with the same kind of vilification the DUP has faced in the UK, Nelson McCausland has said.

The former North Belfast MLA was commenting after 226 German legislators voted against the change in social policy – including the chancellor Mrs Merkel – after the conservative coalition government let members vote with their conscience on the issue.

Ultimately, the measure passed, with 393 votes supporting it.

Mrs Merkel said on Monday that MPs could take up the issue as a “question of conscience”, despite a previous official line opposing such a change in the law.

That prompted her centre-left rivals to quickly call for a snap vote, adding it to yesterday’s agenda in parliament’s last regular session before elections on September 24.

The DUP’s policies on social issues received unprecedented scrutiny in Great Britain after Theresa May’s Conservatives invited the DUP’s 10 MPs to enter a formal arrangement to bolster her slim Westminster majority.

The DUP's Nelson McCausland

The DUP's Nelson McCausland

Mr McCausland said the general response to the news from Germany contrasts sharply with attacks on his party carried in many media outlets – including the branding of the DUP as “crackpots” and “dinosaurs”.

“There has been a marked difference between the treatment of Angela Merkel and others in Germany who voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage and the treatment meted out to the DUP,” he said.

“The attacks on the DUP for its social conservatism were a tidal wave of what one Scottish commentator described as ‘hysteria, hatred and hyperbole’.

“It may be because the so-called liberal-left has a stronger hold in public life in Britain than in Germany, especially in the media.

Marriage as defined by the law is the marriage of a man and a woman

Angela Merkel

“It may also be because the political opponents of Theresa May and the Conservative and unionist government saw attacks on the DUP as a way of damaging the Prime Minister and her party.”

Many applauded Mrs Merkel’s move that opened the way for the vote, but Social Democrat Johannes Kahrs noted in the debate that the chancellor had been a long-time opponent of gay marriage.

“Many thanks for nothing,” he said bluntly.

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but has not granted them full marital rights, which include the possibility to jointly adopt children.

The new law will not take effect for several months because it needs to pass the upper house of parliament and be approved by the president, although those are formalities. It is also expected to face legal challenges.

Mrs Merkel told reporters after the ballot that her vote against the measure was based on her reading of the country’s law concerning marriage and that she did think gay couples should be able to adopt.

Germany’s basic law is vague, saying only that “marriage and the family shall enjoy the protection of the state”, but Mrs Merkel said that for her “marriage as defined by the law is the marriage of a man and a woman”.

She added, however, that she stood by her contention that the interpretation was a “question of conscience” and urged all views to be respected.