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German MPs are pressing Chancellor Angela Merkel for a free vote in parliament soon on legalising same-sex marriage, after she signalled a shift in her party's position on it.

Mrs Merkel surprised the German media by saying she favoured a "decision of conscience" on gay marriage.

Her conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) have previously opposed it - unlike the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens.

Some want a free vote on it this week.



Mrs Merkel's comments sparked intense debate on social media, and the hashtag #Ehefüralle (marriage for all) is trending on Twitter.

Many of Germany's EU partners have legalised gay marriage, notably the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and the UK.

"I'd like to steer the discussion more in the direction of a decision of conscience," Mrs Merkel said in a Berlin debate organised by the magazine Brigitte.

She said same-sex marriage was "a really personal matter", so she wanted the CDU and its Bavarian allies, the CSU, "to react differently to this question". It should not be politicised, she stressed.

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