Germany approves same-sex marriage in historic bill opposed by Christian chancellor Angela Merkel

ReutersPeople demonstrate in front of Germany's lower house of parliament Bundestag while the delegates vote on legalising same-sex marriage, in Berlin, Germany June 30, 2017.

The German parliament approved the legalisation of same-sex marriage on Friday in an historic, contested move. Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel voted against the bill, saying she personally felt marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The bill to legalise gay marriage was passed on Friday by a clear majority of 393-226 in Germany's parliament, to the celebration of left-wing parties and gay rights advocates.

'This is simply a historic day for Germany,' said marriage equality activist Soeren Landmann.

'Today, thousands of same-sex couples were given equality, and the two-class society in matters of love was abolished. Germany can really rejoice today.'

Christian and daughter of a Protestant pastor Chancellor Angela Merkel had voted against the bill after announcing the vote on Monday.

'For me, marriage in the Basic Law is marriage between a man and a woman and that is why I did not vote in favor of this bill today,' she told reporters following the vote.

Merkel emphasised that this was a personal decision; she had previously encouraged lawmakers to vote with their own conscience. She added that she had now become convinced that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.

'I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace,' she said.

ReutersGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of the lower house of parliament Bundestag vote on legalising same-sex marriage, in Berlin, Germany June 30, 2017.

The move was criticised by some conservatives, and Germany's Catholic church.

Political independent Erika Steinbach, a former member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said: '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 previously left the CDU over Merkel's liberal policy toward welcoming refugees.

Representing the German Catholic Church, Archbishop Heiner Kochof of Berlin said he regretted the decision: 'An appreciation of same-sex cohabitation can also be expressed by a different institutional design.'

The legalisation bill is expected to be signed into law by Germany's president Frank-Walter Steinmeier at some point after July 7.

Additional reporting by Reuters