The German Parliament has voted to legalize same-sex marriage despite opposition from the Bavaria-based Christian Social Union (CSU) party.
On Friday, members of the parliament voted 393 to 226, with four abstentions, to give full marital rights to gay couples and allow them to adopt children.
The CSU, which is the more conservative sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has voiced out its firm opposition to same-sex marriage.
"The marriage of man and woman is under special protection because it is fundamentally oriented toward creating new life. This is not the case in homosexual relationships," CSU's Gerda Hasselfeldt stated, prior to the vote.
Merkel was among the 226 who voted against same-sex marriage, but she maintained that she believes marriage is between man and a woman. She said she hopes that the decision will lead to "social cohesion and peace."
The chancellor drew the ire of some members of her traditionally Catholic conservative bloc when she announced on Monday that she would allow lawmakers to vote on the issue according to their individual conscience.
Erika Steinbach, an independent lawmaker who quit the CDU in protest of Merkel's open-door policy towards asylum seekers, accused the German leader of betraying the party's values in an attempt to defuse the politically sensitive issue before the September election.
"It runs against the CDU's own party program, which sees marriage as being between a man and a woman, so CDU decisions are clearly not worth the paper they are written on. It would be hard to exaggerate how excruciating this is," Steinbach stated.
Merkel, a daughter of a Protestant pastor, is seeking a fourth term in a national election on Sept. 24.
Germany has allowed same-sex couples to take part in civil partnerships since 2001, but gay marriage has remained illegal, according to Premier.
Political parties, including the Social Democrats, have long been calling for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Green Party and the Free Democratic Party have reportedly ruled out working closely with Merkel after the elections unless gay marriage would be supported in any coalition deal.
The measure to legalize same-sex marriage will now be sent to the upper house of the German Parliament, where it is expected to pass.
Germany is set to join more than a dozen other European countries, including France, Britain and Spain, in allowing same-sex couples to marry.