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French constitutional court approves gay-marriage bill

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France's constitutional court on Friday approved a gay-marriage bill passed by parliament on April 23. President François Hollande is expected to sign the bill into law on Saturday, legalising marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.

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France's Constitutional Council on Friday approved a gay-marriage bill passed by parliament on April 23, rejecting a challenge to the legislation launched by the main opposition party.

The court ruled that same-sex marriage "did not run contrary to any constitutional principles", nor did it infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty".

France's parliament approved the bill in a third and final vote on April 23, but the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy immediately launched a challenge to the bill on constitutional grounds.

President François Hollande is expected to sign the bill into law on Saturday, marking the final step in legalising marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in France.

Hollande, who promised to support "marriage for all" throughout his presidential campaign, said after the court ruling that it was "now time to respect the law and the Republic".

A Constitutional Council statement following the ruling added a caveat, however, saying that the legality of gay adoption did not establish the "right to a child" and emphasising that the interests of the children involved would continue to be the overriding consideration.

The decision makes France the fourteenth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Such unions are legal in eight other European nations -- the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Denmark.

The ruling comes after months of controversy and protests both for and against the bill that saw thousands taking to the streets and sporadic outbreaks of violence. France is secular but also overwhelmingly Catholic, and demonstrations against the bill drew hundreds of thousands ahead of the final parliamentary vote.

Overall, however, surveys indicate that almost 60 percent of the French population support Hollande's vision of "marriage for all".

(FRANCE 24 with wires)
 

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