Germany’s parliament backed the legalization of same-sex marriage on Friday in a historic vote hailed by gay activists and leftist parties but criticized by some in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative bloc and by the Catholic Church. The move brings Germany into line with many other European nations including France, Britain, and Spain and follows Merkel’s surprise decision this week to allow her lawmakers to follow their own conscience rather than the party line on

the issue. Merkel, daughter of a Protestant pastor, voted against the bill. “This is simply a historic day for Germany,” said Soeren Landmann, a gay marriage activist. Earlier this year, parliament agreed to grant compensation to thousands of gay men jailed under a 19th-century law that was strengthened by the Nazis and only dropped in 1969 when homosexuality was decriminalized in West Germany. READ MORE