Germany's 16 states on Friday voted in favor of a resolution entitled "Marriage for all - resolution for the completely equal treatment of same-sex couples," forwarding the motion to Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition and urging them to make it a law in the lower house of parliament.
Those in favor of the motion, led by Lower Saxony state, mustered 40 votes in the council chamber - well above a majority threshold of 35 - and demanded an end to discrimination, including law allowing gays to adopt children.
The gay marriage initiative was backed by the nine left-leaning "Länder" whose state governments mix center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the ex-communist Left party.
Ripples from the Irish vote
During debate, proponents referred to last month's referendum in largely Catholic Ireland, where almost 62 percent voted to allow gay marriage.
The Social Democrat state premier of Rhineland Palatinate, Malu Dreyer, described the move as overdue.
"Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come," she said, adding that it was also a Christian value to want to commit to a single life partner.
On the issue of the rights to adopt, Dreyer said that the well-being of the child should be the decisive factor.
Another advocate, Baden-Württemburg's state premier Winfried Kretschmann, himself a Catholic and a Green, said it was inconceivable that Germany as a liberal democratic country still sought to curtail the rights and lifestyles of individuals.
Kretschmann acknowledged that his view was at odds with Vatican policy, but added that as a Catholic he was favored equal rights to Protestants and other faiths in Germany.
Cool reception from Bavaria
Resistance came from Bavarian Justice Minister Winfried Bausback, who called the proposal "an attack on marriage" and "a transparent political maneuver." Bausback said that equal treatment of same-sex partnerships was not necessary to end discrimination, claiming the proposal went a "significant step too far."
Bodo Ramelow, the new premier of the eastern state of Thuringia, said tax benefits for traditionally married couples should be replaced by tax incentives for those who raised children.
The Bundesrat's resolution would need to pass through the lower house, the Bundestag, to have any chance of becoming law. In such a vote, the behavior of Social Democrats could prove decisive. The SPD is the junior coalition partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, but the SPD, Green and Left parliamentarians combined could outvote Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance.
In 2002, Germany's Constitutional Court ruled that registering same-sex partnerships did not breach the special protection afforded traditional heterosexual marrage.
ipj/msh (dpa, epd, KNA)