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Germany’s parliament has voted to legalize gay marriage days after Chancellor Angela Merkel dropped her opposition to a vote.

The reform grants gay couples now limited to civil unions full marital rights, and allows them to adopt children.

Angela Merkel’s political opponents were strongly in favor. However, the chancellor, who signaled her backing for a free vote only on June 26, voted against.

The bill was backed by 393 lawmakers, 226 voted against and four abstained.

According to the AFP, the German legal code will now read: “Marriage is entered into for life by two people of different or the same sex.”

Barack Obama has become the first sitting US president to back same-sex marriage

Following June 30 vote, Angela Merkel said that for her marriage was between a man and a woman. But she said she hoped the passing of the bill would lead to more “social cohesion and peace”.

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During her 2013 election campaign, Angela Merkel argued against gay marriage on the grounds of “children’s welfare,” and admitted that she had a “hard time” with the issue.

However, in an on-stage interview with the women’s magazine Brigitte on June 26, Angela Merkel shocked the German media by saying, in response to an audience member’s question, that she had noted other parties’ support for gay marriage, and would allow a free vote at an unspecified time in the future.

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Angela Merkel also said she had had a “life-changing experience” in her home constituency, where she had dinner with a lesbian couple who cared for eight foster children together.

As the news spread on Twitter, supporters rallied under the hashtag #EheFuerAlle (MarriageForAll) – and started calling for a vote as soon as possible.

Angela Merkel’s current coalition partners – the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who are trailing her Christian Democrats (CDU) in opinion polls – then seized the political initiative.

They called for a vote by the time parliament went into summer recess at the end of the week – prompting Angela Merkel to complain she’d been “ambushed”.

A recent survey by the government’s anti-discrimination agency found that 83% of Germans were in favor of marriage equality.

The day after the Republic of Ireland voted to legalize gay marriage in May 2015, almost every German newspaper splashed a rainbow across its front page.

Barack Obama made a new attempt on Friday to shore up the youth vote with a live interview on MTV.

President Barack Obama sat down at the White House with anchor Sway Calloway and delivered a careful pitch based around youth-friendly topics such as climate change, college tuition and gay marriage.

He also opened up about his personal life, revealing that he has banned his daughter from using Facebook for security reasons, and talking about his anguish at seeing his friends’ family members die in gun violence in Chicago.

The questions for the half-hour interview were sent in by young MTV viewers, and focused around issues which concern college students and the under-30s.

Barack Obama is likely to attract the support of a large majority of young people, but nonetheless faces a fierce battle to boost turnout among the group, who traditionally vote in relatively low numbers.

He was in his element during the MTV interview on Friday afternoon, with many of the questions centring on common Democratic talking points such as global warming and women’s equality.

The first question, predictably, was about youth unemployment, and prompted the President to defend his economic record, arguing: “We’ve made real progress since I came into office… but we’ve got to do a lot more.”

When asked how he would help entrepreneurs, Barack Obama claimed his administration was “making it easier for entrepreneurs to raise money through the internet” by seeking crowd-funding from a number of small investors.

Barack Obama made a new attempt on Friday to shore up the youth vote with a live interview on MTV

Barack Obama made a new attempt on Friday to shore up the youth vote with a live interview on MTV

However, Barack Obama refused to contemplating forgiving the student debt of graduates who start their own business, saying it would be better to “make sure that folks don’t get loaded up on debt in the first place”.

Sway Calloway pointed out that the majority of young people now support same-sex marriage, and pressed the President to make a greater commitment to “ensure that all Americans have equal rights in the eyes of the federal government”.

However, Barack Obama – while describing gays as “outstanding people” – reiterated that “historically marriages have been defined at the state level”, and suggested he would not push for federal legislation to legalize gay marriage nationally.

But he insisted: “The evolution in this country will get us to a place where we will be treating everyone fairly,” and argued that future generations’ support of gay marriage would change the political landscape.

When the conversation turned to the “silent epidemic” of gun violence in America’s cities, the President spoke of his personal grief at the murders which have blighted his native Chicago.

“These shootings are taking place a few blocks away from my home, and I have friends whose family members have been killed,” he said.

Barack Obama also talked about climate change, an issue which did not come in the presidential debates, saying: “We’re not moving as fast as we need to, and this is a problem which future generations will have to be dealing with.”

The President addressed his hopes and fears for his daughters, Malia and Sasha, as he said: “They’re growing up pretty quick, and when they’re out of the house I want to make sure they have the same opportunities as anyone’s sons.”

He revealed that Malia found it difficult to balance the stresses of adolescence with life in the public eye, saying: “Because she’s well-known I’m very keen about her protecting her privacy.”

Barack Obama said that she was not allowed to use Facebook for security reasons, but joked that he was not worried about the prospect of her dating – “because she’s got Secret Service protection”.

A more cultural moment came towards the end of the interview, when Sway Calloway asked whether Barack Obama was concerned about the decline in political music.

The President reminisced about his youthful love of Bob Marley: “I can remember when i was in college listening – and not necessarily agreeing with everything, but thinking about how people outside our country were thinking about the struggle for jobs and dignity and freedom.”

Among modern bands, he praised the Roots, a hip-hop group who are “doing some really good stuff”.

MTV has invited Mitt Romney to participate in a similar event, and the network says it hopes to feature the Republican candidate at some point before Election Day.

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Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate in this year’s US presidential election, has rejected the legitimacy of same-sex marriage telling graduates at Liberty University, a Christian college in Lynchburg, Virginia, that marriage is “a relationship between one man and one woman”.

Mitt Romney told the Liberty University commencement that marriage is an “enduring” institution that’s reserved for one man and one woman.

The crowd cheered his comments, made days after Democratic President Barack Obama embraced same-sex marriage.

Mitt Romney also said that culture – “what you believe, how you live, what you value – it matters”.

“Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman,” he said.

Mitt Romney told the Liberty University commencement that marriage is an “enduring” institution that's reserved for one man and one woman

Mitt Romney told the Liberty University commencement that marriage is an “enduring” institution that's reserved for one man and one woman

Mitt Romney, a Mormon by religion, was given a standing ovation.

Barack Obama, fighting for re-election as president in November, announced his support for gay marriage this week.

It was seen as a politically risky move, especially in the South, where one in three swing voters strongly opposes allowing gays and lesbians to wed.

Virginia is regarded as a key battleground in November.

Addressing the graduation ceremony at Liberty University, Mitt Romney avoided talking about his own faith but stressed the importance of Christian values in American society.

He has so far struggled to gain support from evangelical Christians in his campaign for the Republican ticket.

“There is no greater force for good in the nation than Christian conscience in action,” he told the audience.

While Mitt Romney opposes gay marriage, he has said that same-sex couples should have some rights, including the ability to adopt children.

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President Barack Obama has ended months of hedging on the issue of same-sex marriage by saying he thinks gay couples should be able to wed.

Barack Obama has become the first sitting US president to back gay marriage.

Mitt Romney, the Republican who is set to challenge Barack Obama for the White House in November’s elections, promptly said he was against gay marriage.

In recent days, Vice-President Joe Biden and cabinet member Arne Duncan had expressed support for gay unions.

A Gallup poll on Tuesday suggested that 50% of Americans were in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage – a slightly lower proportion than last year – while 48% said they would oppose such a move.

The interview with ABC News was apparently hastily arranged as Barack Obama came under mounting pressure to clarify his position on the issue.

President Barack Obama has ended months of hedging on the issue of same-sex marriage by saying he thinks gay couples should be able to wed

President Barack Obama has ended months of hedging on the issue of same-sex marriage by saying he thinks gay couples should be able to wed

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Barack Obama told ABC.

He pointed to his administration’s commitment to increasing rights for gay citizens. He cited the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and said his administration had dropped support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

“I’ve stood on the side of broader equality for the LGBT community. I hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient,” Barack Obama said.

He said he had changed his views after seeing gay members of his own staff who were in “incredibly committed monogamous relationships”, and service personnel who felt constrained by not being able to wed.

Barack Obama also said discussions with his own family had helped the “evolution” of his views on the issue.

“There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and… Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently,” Barack Obama said.

“It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”

In 2010, Barack Obama said his views on the issue were “evolving”, a stance that had frustrated gay rights supporters and donors.

His comments aired on Wednesday come a day after North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment effectively banning same-sex marriage or civil unions.

The Obama campaign had opposed that measure, which was passed with 61% in favor and 39% against.

In the US, 31 states have passed constitutional amendments or legislation against same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney set the stage for an election year clash over the polarizing social issue by saying he was against gay marriage.

The former Massachusetts governor told a Fox News affiliate: “I do not favor marriage between people of the same gender, and I do not favor civil unions if they are identical to marriage other than by name.

“My view is the domestic partnership benefits, hospital visitation rights, and the like are appropriate but that the others are not.”

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Maryland gay marriage bill has been approved in the state Senate, less than a week after it passed the state House.

The bill, which will become law when signed by Governor Martin O’Malley, who sponsored it, will make Maryland the 8th US state to permit gay marriage.

But opponents have vowed to challenge the measure by putting it on the state ballot in November’s election.

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed such a bill last week.

Martin O’Malley has said he will sign the Maryland law, which passed in the Senate 25-22.

“This issue has taken a lot of energy, as well it should, and I’m very proud of the House of Delegates and also the Senate for resolving this issue on the side of human dignity, and I look forward to signing the bill,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said.

Maryland gay marriage bill has been approved in the state Senate, less than a week after it passed the state House

Maryland gay marriage bill has been approved in the state Senate, less than a week after it passed the state House

Although Maryland has one of the largest Democratic majorities in any state legislature, the measure encountered resistance from African-American Catholic and evangelical lawmakers.

Some religious groups have said they will push for a referendum on the issue in November, in an effort to repeal it.

“The enormous public outcry that this legislation has generated – voiced by Marylanders that span political, racial, social and religious backgrounds – demonstrates a clear need to take this issue to a vote of the people,” said Kathy Dempsey, spokeswoman for the Maryland Catholic Conference.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, which advocated for the bill said: “Along with coalition partners, we look forward to educating and engaging voters about what this bill does. It strengthens all Maryland families and protects religious liberty.”

The organization added that they expect opponents of the measure will be able to secure the required number of signatures to get the issue onto November’s ballot.

Maryland would join Iowa, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and the District of Columbia, which have already legalized same-sex marriage.

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Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday that gay marriage is one of several threats to the traditional family unit that undermines “the future of humanity itself”.

Pope Benedict XVI told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of proper of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman”.

The pontiff made his comments, some of his strongest yet against gay marriage, during a New Year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican.

During his speech, Pope Benedict touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today, including gay marriage.

The pontiff said: “This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society.

“Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself. The family unit is fundamental for the educational process and for the development both of individuals and states.

“Hence there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue.”

Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday that gay marriage is one of several threats to the traditional family unit

Pope Benedict XVI warned yesterday that gay marriage is one of several threats to the traditional family unit

The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalize gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.

One leading opponent of gay marriage in the U.S. is New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who Pope Benedict will elevate to cardinal next month.

Timothy Dolan fought against gay marriage before it became legal in New York state last June, and in September he sent a letter to President Barack Obama criticizing his administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage.

In that letter Timothy Dolan, who holds the powerful post of president of the U.S. Bishops Conference, said such a policy could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions”.

The Roman Catholic Church, which has some 1.3 billion members worldwide, teaches that while homosexual tendencies are not sinful, homosexual acts are, and that children should grow up in a traditional family with a mother and a father.

Gay marriage is legal in a number of European countries, including Spain and the Netherlands.

Some Churches that have allowed gay marriage, women priests, gay clergy and gay bishops have been losing members to Catholicism, and the Vatican has taken steps to facilitate their conversion.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI decreed that Anglicans who leave their Church, many because they feel it has become too liberal, can find a home in Catholicism in a parallel hierarchy that allows them to keep some of their traditions.

The Vatican has since set up “ordinariates,” structures similar to dioceses, in Britain and the U.S. to oversee ex-Anglicans who have converted and be a point of contact for those wishing to do so.