PARIS – To the delight of gay activists, France’s National Assembly on Saturday overwhelmingly approved a key piece of legislation that will allow homosexual couples to marry and adopt children.
Deputies voted 249-97 in favor of Article One of the draft law, which redefines marriage as being a contract between two people rather than necessarily between a man and a woman.
Although the proposed law still faces at least another week of scrutiny before a final vote scheduled for Feb. 12, it now looks set to emerge from parliament without delay and undiluted.
After months of frenzied debate, the ease with which the law cleared its first major hurdle was welcomed by delighted gay rights activists.
“Things are going well and quickly, which is a relief for us,” said Nicolas Gougain of the Inter-LGBT lobby group.
“We’ve never seen so many deputies arguing the case for equality and for the recognition of different kinds of families,” Gougain told reporters. “We can now look forward to the remainder of the debate calmly. It’s fabulous!”
However, as activists celebrated, tens of thousands of opponents to the law gathered in cities across France the same day.
Police estimated that at least 80,000 people took to the streets nationwide.
The conservative Paris suburb of Versailles saw the biggest turnout, with 15,000 demonstrators counted — more than twice as many as in the capital itself.
Opinion polls suggest a clear majority of French voters support the right of gay couples to wed and a narrower majority favor them being granted the right to adopt as couples.
Gay men and women can already adopt as individuals if approved by social services.
Opponents to the proposed reform are hoping to gather 500,000 signatures to present to lawmakers with the aim of blocking the legislation.