French MPs approve Bill to allow gay marriage
Activists from the women's rights group Femen at Notre Dame yesterday. photograph: charles platiau/ reuters
France took a big step towards introducing gay marriage yesterday when the National Assembly approved a draft law to extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.
After 110 hours of parliamentary debate and more than 5,000 amendments, the lower house passed the landmark Bill by 329 votes to 229, with 10 abstentions. It will now go to the Senate, where the ruling left-wing bloc has a majority, and is expected to become law in May.
President François Hollande’s government billed gay marriage as the most important social reform since the abolition of the death penalty in 1981, but the issue has proven the most divisive of Mr Hollande’s term so far.
As the result was announced to huge cheers on the socialist benches, justice minister Christiane Taubira, who shepherded the Bill through all-night sittings over the past week, said it was the culmination of a “great and noble battle”.
Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was proud of the Bill, which he said belonged to “a long line of republican reforms for equality and against discrimination”.
“This law will extend to all families the protections guaranteed by the institution of marriage. And ... this law will reinforce the institution of marriage,” he added.
A rally by opponents of the marriage plan in Paris last month attracted some of the largest crowds for any conservative cause in many years, with police putting turnout at 340,000 and organisers claiming the figure was closer to one million. Opponents of the Bill, which included the Catholic Church and conservative parties, claimed their efforts forced the government to abandon a proposal to include medically assisted procreation in the law, although ministers say that will form part of separate legislation later in the year.
Mr Hollande’s left-wing bloc holds a majority in the National Assembly, which allowed them to overcome attempts by opponents to delay proceedings with about 5,000 amendments that took more than 110 hours of acrimonious debate. The Socialists and their allies together hold a majority in the Senate, which should ensure it passes through the upper house.
The marriage debate was split along left-right lines. Just four socialists voted against the Bill while, across the chamber, only two of the right-wing UMP declared themselves in favour.
However, two prominent figures tipped as potential future UMP leaders, Bruno Le Maire and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, abstained in the vote.
Opinion polls show that a majority of French voters favour giving same-sex couples the right to marry, though there is less support for giving such couples rights to adoption or medically-assisted procreation.
Pollster BVA found that 58 per cent of voters favour gay marriage, while 53 per cent oppose adoption for gay couples, according to a survey published last month. CSA, another polling company, found that 52 per cent back gay marriage and the same proportion oppose adoption by same-sex couples.
Assuming it is passed by the Senate in early April, France will join 11 other countries, including Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands and Spain, where same-sex marriage is legal.