French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira speaks after National Assembly… (Remy de la Mauviniere / Associated…)
In a key victory Tuesday for same-sex couples in France, a measure allowing them to marry and adopt children passed the lower house of Parliament, the National Assembly.
The measure, pushed through by the Socialist administration of President Francois Hollande, passed by a vote of 329 to 229. It now goes to the Senate, which is also controlled by the Socialists and their allies. A vote is scheduled for April 2.
If the bill passes in the Senate, France will join 11 other nations, including Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and South Africa, where same-sex marriage is legal. Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.
A same-sex marriage bill is also working its way through Britain's Parliament.
The legislation polarized the National Assembly largely along right-left political lines. In what is still a majority Catholic country, it was opposed by many Catholics as well as social conservatives, evangelical Christians and many Muslims.
Members of the opposition, the vast majority of whom voted against the bill, proposed about 5,000 amendments in an attempt to delay the vote, which followed more than 100 hours of occasionally bad-tempered debate that spilled over into evenings and weekends.
The legislation, known in France as the "marriage for all" bill, redefines marriage as a contract between two individuals rather than between a man and a woman. Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks to show their support for or opposition to the legislation, described by the French press as the country's most important social reform since the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.
"We've waged a great and noble battle," Christiane Taubira, the French justice minister and principal promoter of the bill, told journalists before Tuesday's vote.
Willsher is a special correspondent.