While the Bavarian premier is proposing an election targeted at traditional families, a poll has shown a large majority favoring "marriage for all." German law currently prevents gay couples from adopting children.
In an interview with the "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper, the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the partner to Chancellor Merkel's CDU, has set out what he believes should be a central theme of the election campaign for the September federal vote.
Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer said: "The CSU, together with the CDU, will make families with children a central election theme."
"I have spoken with the chancellor on the subject several times," Seehofer added. "There should be a strong package of measures for a family-oriented offensive in Germany."
The CSU is currently considering a five-point program of policy measures for families with children. According to the news report, it includes a one-off payment to help parents pay for equipment for their first baby, increased income tax deductions for parents for each child they have, the introduction of a bank account to pay for a child's education into which the state would make contributions, the gradual abolition of day care costs and the reduction of social insurance contributions for low-income families.
Before the end of May, the CSU - which operates only in the southern state of Bavaria - will decide on which two or three measures should be included in the federal election campaign with its CDU partners. The CDU operates throughout the rest of Germany's states.
Marriage for all
At the same time, an opinion survey carried out by pollster Emnid for "Bild am Sonntag" on gay marriage showed that 75 percent of respondents favored full legal equality for homosexuals in life partnerships with the laws for a traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Twenty percent of the 501 people contacted by the pollsters said they were against equality in law for gay couples, with the remaining 5 percent having no opinion.
In January, a survey by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Bureau (ADS) showed 83 percent of respondents saying marriage between two men or two women should be allowed.
Since 2001 there has been a special legal arrangement for same-sex couples in Germany which stipulates they are not allowed to adopt children.
Hape Kerkeling, a German comedian and writer, told "Der Spiegel" magazine he considered it "shameful" that Germany had not adopted laws allowing equality for gay couples. He encouraged the CDU party leader, using an expression that echoed her call from the country's management of the migrant crisis: "You can do it!" ("Das schaffen Sie!")
Merkel has previously commented that she was unsure of the consequences for the children within gay marriages.
The chancellor candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Martin Schulz, has called for equality for gay marriage, and the party looks set to make it an election issue. The party has proposed protection for the status of marriage and family and to extend it to "other forms of cohabitation," Thomas Oppermann, chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, said last month. The Greens and Left (Linke) parties also support the idea.
jm/rc (dpa, kna)