Germany’s parliament has voted to legalise gay marriage, despite Angela Merkel’s opposition to the move.

The law was passed on Friday morning by 393 votes to 226, with four abstentions.

Friday’s vote in the Bundestag, the last session before September elections, was fast-tracked after the Chancellor said politicians could take up the issue as a “question of conscience”.

It freed members of her conservative coalition, which has been against same-sex marriage, to individually vote for the measure.

Mrs Merkel said her personal view was marriage should be between a man and a woman, but she hoped parliament’s approval of the measure would lead to more social cohesion.

“For me, marriage in the basic law is marriage between a man and a woman and that is why I did not vote in favour of this bill today,” she said afterwards.

“I hope that the vote today not only promotes respect between different opinions but also brings more social cohesion and peace.”

Germany has allowed same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships since 2001, but same-sex marriages remain illegal.

All of Mrs Merkel’s potential coalition partners after the September 4 election, including the centre-left Social Democrats of her challenger, Martin Schulz, had been calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised.

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