German parliament votes to legalise same-sex marriage

GERMANY has voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

The country's parliament voted in favour of the change after Chancellor Angela Merkel did an about-face that freed members of the conservative party to vote their conscience rather than follow party lines.

Norbert Lammert, president of the parliament, said 393 politicians voted to approve the amendment, while 226 voted against and four abstained.

Merkel said she was among those who voted "no".

The reform grants full marital rights, including child adoption, to gay and lesbian couples, who in Germany have been allowed since 2001 to enter so-called civil unions.

Germany is the 23rd country to legalise same-sex marriage.

It remains illegal in Australia.

The vote capped a hectic week in the German Parliament that started with the item barely on the political agenda.

Speaking after the vote, Merkel said that the issue was "emotionally touching ... for me personally," but that she voted no because of her "basic belief" that "marriage is marriage between man and woman."

The matter still has to be debated in the upper house Bundesrat before it can become law. However, no Bundesrat vote is required.

Many were quick to point out how swiftly it happened in Germany, while Australia has debated the hot topic for years without politicians taking any action.