German Lawmakers Approve Same-sex Marriage Bill

German lawmakers on Friday approved a bill that will extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The measure passed in the lower house of the German Parliament, which is known as the Bundestag, by 393-226 vote margin with four abstentions.

The vote took place less than a week after Chancellor Angela Merkel announced her position on the issue had changed. She told the editor of a German magazine that she recently had dinner with a lesbian couple who are raising eight foster children.

Germany since 2001 has allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil partnerships. It is among the last countries in western Europe that have not extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Gays and lesbians can legally marry in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain, Portugal, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who won re-election earlier this month, said his government plans to introduce a same-sex marriage bill.

The German bill is expected to become law by the end of the year.

“After years of waiting and hoping, rainbow families in Germany will now receive equal recognition under the law,” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis in a statement. “This is a historic milestone that can inspire even more change for LGBTI people.”

Friday’s vote took place a day before up to three million people are expected to line the streets of Madrid for the WorldPride parade. Hundreds of advocates from across Europe have been attending LGBT rights conferences and other events in the Spanish capital this week.