France Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

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PARIS – With a definitive vote by the lower house of Parliament, France on Tuesday became the world's 14th nation, and the third in just two weeks, to approve marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The legislation is expected to be approved by the Constitutional Council and signed into law by President François Hollande in time to allow the country's first same-sex weddings this summer.

Passage of the "marriage for all" law, sponsored by Mr. Hollande, a Socialist, came after months of sometimes angry debate and a series of major protests, rallies that drew Roman Catholics from France's rural regions and received the backing of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, as well as the conservative political opposition. Homophobic violence had risen in recent weeks, with a handful of attacks on gay couples reported across the country.

The legislation was approved by a vote of 331 to 225 in the National Assembly, the lower house, where the left holds a strong majority. Eleven legislators from the center and right broke with party lines to support the law, though there were indications that some of those votes may have been cast by mistake. There were 10 abstentions.

Opposition to the law, which also opens adoption to same-sex couples, remained strong and vocal even after the vote. Parliamentarians from the country's main opposition party, the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, had earlier announced that they would challenge the legality of the new law before the Constitutional Council, a high court that rules on matters of constitutionality. And organizers for an opposition movement called La Manif pour Tous, or Protest for All, said they intended to continue to demonstrate.

Police officers were reportedly stationed in the thousands Tuesday outside the National Assembly, where opponents have held daily protests, some of which have degenerated into violent clashes with security forces.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have marched across France to protest the law, with much of their attention focused on adoption by gay couples; opponents have deplored what they call a threat to the foundations of French society and an injustice for children who will be raised by parents of the same sex. The tagline for La Manif Pour Tous reads, "All born from a man and a woman."

Backers of the legislation said it rectified an unjust and discriminatory status quo without impinging upon the rights of heterosexuals.

"It is a generous text that you've voted for today," Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told legislators Tuesday evening, calling the law a "very beautiful reform."

While rapid enactment seems almost certain, there is precedent for the Constitutional Council to reject a legal text prepared by Mr. Hollande's government. In December, the court rejected legislation that would have created a 75 percent marginal tax rate on incomes of more than one million euros, or about $1.3 million; that legal text failed to account for the fact that French income tax is levied on households, not individuals.

Mr. Hollande's junior minister for the family, Dominique Bertinotti, said Tuesday that the government had been careful to avoid any "legal fragility" in the text of the marriage bill. In a 2011 decision, the court found that it was not its role to rule on the legal boundaries of marriage.

Some conservative lawmakers have suggested overturning the law should they find themselves with a parliamentary majority, but it remains unlikely they would try to do so, despite their recent vocal opposition; opinion polling has consistently shown that a strong majority of French support marriage rights for same-sex couples, though the country remains more evenly split on the matter of adoption.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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