France moves towards equality

France moves towards equality

France is closer than ever to marriage equality after lawmakers voted to remove gender-specific language from the legal definition of marriage.

The National Assembly, France’s Lower House, is currently debating Bill 344, which would legalise same-sex marriage and adoption. On Saturday the Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of Article 1 of the bill, which defines marriage as between two people rather than between a man and a woman.

The Article passed with a majority of 249 to 97, gaining the support of the governing Socialist party and a number of smaller left-wing groups. While the whole of the bill is yet to be voted on, the legislation looks set to pass the Lower House when it comes to a vote on February 12.

Socialist French President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced their intention to legalise same-sex marriage prior to the elections that brought them to power last year.

In his first speech before the newly elected Socialist majority assembly, Ayrault promised to bring a marriage equality bill before the Parliament by March 2013.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in protest at the article’s passing, continuing the massive demonstrations both for and against same-sex marriage that have swept the country over the past month.

The bill has proven to be extremely divisive – while opinion polls consistently show a large majority of French people support same-sex marriage, the reforms have met with fierce opposition from conservative politicians, the Catholic Church and much of the country’s 5 million-strong Muslim community.

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