By AFP- A French bill granting rights to stepparents sparked a row in government Tuesday when a minister described it as an under-handed way of recognizing gay parents and vowed to fight the measure.
Housing Minister Christine Boutin, a staunch Catholic and vocal opponent of gay rights in France, said the proposed legislation contained provisions on homosexual couples that were surreptitiously included.
"I will not accept that we recognize homosexual parenting and adoptions by homosexual couples in an under-handed way," said Boutin in a statement.
"Recognizing the status of stepparents will lead to the de facto recognition of homosexual parenting and adoptions by homosexual couples," she said.
President Nicolas Sarkozy last month announced the new legislation giving stepparents rights over the children they raise, saying it would bring the law in step with the modern reality of reconstituted families.
Two million children live with parents who have remarried or found a new partner in France and nearly three million are being raised in single parent households.
In the latest version of the draft, families minister Nadine Morano added a section stating that stepparents' rights apply to "households made up of two adults of the same sex."
It would be the first time in France that legislation would recognize gay parents and Boutin promised to put up a fight when the bill comes before parliament later this month.
Defending the bill as a pragmatic step to help manage family life, Morano said Boutin should "drop her backward-looking ideological stance and read the text."
The bill does not recognize gay parents, Morano said, but allows a stepparent in agreement with the biological mother or father to exercise rights over a child.
The measure will "allow the person who is raising a child to be able to take action in the course of everday life," Morano told RTL radio.
Some 30,000 children are being raised by gay parents in France, according to the INED demographics institute.
French courts have rejected bids by gay couples to win recognition for their parenting rights, even though they do enjoy the rights of married couples under French law.