French parliament approves landmark gay marriage bill
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France's National Assembly approved the government’s controversial ‘marriage for all’ bill in a final vote on Tuesday after months of fierce debate. The law is President François Hollande’s first major social reform.
France’s lower house voted by a clear majority on Tuesday to approve the government’s marriage reform, which will allow same-sex couples the same spousal and adoption rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
The legislation, which is President François Hollande’s first major social reform and a key election pledge, was backed by 329 deputies and opposed by 229.
The bill redefines marriage as a contract between two people rather than between a man and a woman. It will now go to the left-wing-controlled Senate, or upper house, on April 2, which is expected to approve it.
Once passed, the reform will see France join 11 other gay-marriage friendly countries including Spain, Sweden, South Africa and the Netherlands. Nine US states and Washington DC have also legalised same-sex marriage and British lawmakers have recently voted for marriage equality in the UK.
The move is France’s biggest social reform since the abolition of the death penalty in 1981. Speaking after the vote, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told journalists “We've waged a great and noble battle”.
The vote follows a lengthy and acrimonious parliamentary debate and the laborious processing of more than 5,000 amendments put forward by the conservative opposition. The amendments, filed in order to delay proceedings, saw some 100 hours of parliamentary debate, often continuing into the early hours of the morning.
The issue has proved to be hugely divisive in a country steeped in conservative Catholic values, despite its global reputation as a progressive nation. While some 51% of people support same-sex marriage, less than half agree with equal rights involving children.
Legislators were forced to postpone plans to allow lesbians access to medically assisted procreation – something which is already available to heterosexual couples unable to conceive. A separate law on the issue will be debated later in the year.
The debate sparked some of the country’s largest protests in decades, with around 340,000 turning out in Paris on January 14 to protest the reform. The anti-gay marriage camp, largely driven by the Catholic Church, has accused President Hollande of pushing through legislation without proper consultation. It has promised to stage a new rally on March 24.