French parliament allows gay marriage despite protests

Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:09pm EDT
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By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - France became the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage on Tuesday after parliament approved a new law championed by President Francois Hollande, but it came at a political price amid violent street protests and a rise in homophobic attacks.

Hollande's "marriage for all" law is one of the biggest social reforms in France since his left-wing mentor and predecessor Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty in 1981, a move which also split opinion.

Lawmakers in the lower house National Assembly, where Hollande's Socialists have an absolute majority, passed the bill by 331 votes for and 225 against.

"Many French people will be proud this job is done," Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament. "Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds."

Yet the episode has proved costly for an already unpopular president. Critics said Hollande should focus instead on fixing the moribund economy while opponents of the law have demanded a referendum and protests against it descended into violence.

Opposition conservatives and centrists immediately appealed to the Constitutional Council, the country's top court, to have it struck down.

The ruling body will now debate whether the law is constitutional. Hollande wants the bill to come into effect by May 25, with the first gay marriages anticipated in June.

The debate has been blamed for a spate of homophobic attacks, including the beating of a 24-year-old in the southern city of Nice on Saturday. Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned this week of "zero tolerance" for such violence.   Continued...

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) hugs Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (2ndR) after a final vote on bill legalising same-sex marriage at the National Assembly in Paris April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Charles Platiau