France has become the 14th country to approve a law allowing gay marriage. The bill, which also legalises adoption by same-sex couples, was passed by 321 votes to 225 in the French parliament. The decision follows a divisive public debate with some of the biggest protests seen in France in recent years.
Hundreds of opponents of the measure rallied outside the National Assembly building in central Paris as the result was announced. The leader of the most high-profile group opposing same-sex marriage vowed to continue the fight. Frigide Barjot, a comedian who uses her stage name, told her supporters: “We are going to show them that this is not over. I solemnly ask the president to hold a referendum on the subject.” Inside the National Assembly chamber, two opponents tried to unfurl a banner before being ejected. Thousands of police armed with water cannon were deployed near parliament to deal with any repeat of the violence seen on the fringes of previous demonstrations.
Although rallies opposing the change have been overwhelmingly peaceful, there have been some clashes, blamed on far-right elements. Opinion polls suggest a small majority of French people favour gay marriage, but surveys indicate fewer support adoption by same-sex couples. Socialist President Francois Hollande made the law his flagship social reform. He is expected to add his signature to the bill once it has cleared any challenge in the constitutional council. Opponents of the measure, including the opposition UMP party, will try to convince the council that marriage is a constitutional issue. However, analysts say that the council is unlikely to block the new law.