Australian marriage equality advocates say French lawmakers have shown true leadership against violent opposition after France became the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage overnight despite months of divisive protests.
The National Assembly, the Parliament’s Lower House voted 331 to 225 on the same-sex marriage bill, which also allows gay couples to adopt.
It follows months of protests from both supporters and opponents numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
The ABC reported noisy marriage equality opponents were ordered out of the Parliament chambers before the vote.
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira hailed the adoption of the bill as a “historic” moment in French history.
“It grants new rights, stands firmly against discrimination [and] testifies to our country’s respect for the institution of marriage,” she said in a statement.
“This law… brightens the horizons of many of our citizens who were deprived of these rights.”
The bill still needs to be signed into law by French President François Hollande who supports the move and wants the law to take effect by May 25 with the first same-sex marriages expected in June.
Approximately 200,000 people declared themselves as living in same-sex relationships according to a 2011 study by France’s statistics agency.
While supporters were celebrating the new law, some dubbing April 23 as the “Day of Love”, opponents say they will challenge it on constitutional grounds.
A mass protest against the new law is also planned for May 26.
One anti-homophobia group said the debate had caused violence against gay couples to triple across the country.
The French president condemned homophobic violence last week when four men had attacked staff in a gay bar in Lille.
Two weeks ago, Wilfred de Bruijn and his partner were badly beaten up for walking arm in arm.
National polls in France show a majority support gay marriage, however the majority oppose allowing gay couples to adopt.
Last week, New Zealand passed same-sex marriage laws overwhelmingly and Uruguay passed similar laws this month as well.
Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said France’s move would add pressure on local politicians to allow overseas marriage recognised in Australia.
“France’s message to Australia and the world is that the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity apply equally to same-sex couples,” he said.
“The French vote, plus the recent vote in New Zealand, will ensure marriage equality is an issue at the Australian election in September, with many Australians taking their aspiration for marriage equality to the ballot box and voting for candidates who support reform.
“Given the romance associated with Paris I expect many Australian same-sex couples will marry under the new French law, only to return to Australia to find their solemn vows of lifelong commitment are not recognised.”
Last week, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young announced a new bill to allow overseas same-sex marriages to be recognised here in Australia.
“My bill will mean that that LGBTI Australians who get married overseas will have a chance to claim the same legal recognition of their relationships as anyone else when they return home,” she said.