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Couple celebrates first same-sex wedding in Germany

Karl Kreile (left) and Bodo Mende kissed Sunday during their wedding in Berlin.

Steffi Loos/Getty Images

Karl Kreile (left) and Bodo Mende kissed Sunday during their wedding in Berlin.

BERLIN — A couple from Berlin on Sunday become the first in Germany to celebrate a same-sex wedding, after a new law called ‘‘marriage for all’’ went into effect.

Karl Kreile, 59, and Bodo Mende, 60, were married at the town hall in Schoeneberg, a Berlin district that has long been a center of gay life in the German capital.

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The law change followed a vote in Parliament in June, making Germany the 23rd country worldwide to allow same-sex marriages. Previously, same-sex couples had been able to enter into only registered partnerships that granted them fewer rights than heterosexual couples who married.

Kreele and Mende have been at the forefront of campaigning for gay rights in Germany since meeting in 1979 in what was then West Berlin. The city at that time was a magnet for people seeking to escape the political and social constraints on both sides of a divided Germany.

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Kreile recalled the ‘‘shame’’ he felt in 1992, amid a new spirit of optimism three years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when he and Mende marched into a registry office and asked to be married, only to be politely turned away.

The couple registered their partnership 10 years later, after Germany became one of the first countries worldwide to allow civil unions. But as other countries began legalizing same-sex marriages, Germany fell behind, in part because of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s opposition.

Merkel, who has been chancellor for 12 years, agreed to let Parliament hold a free vote on same-sex marriages in June, three months before a national election. She voted against the move herself, but a majority of lawmakers backed the measure.

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Mende thinks the result might have been different if the vote were held now, given the rightward shift in German politics after the Sept. 24 election. The upstart Alternative for Germany party, which won seats in Parliament for the first time, opposes full equality for same-sex couples.

Associated Press

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