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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 15, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 7
Viva les French kisses - National Assembly passes marriage equality bill
Section One
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Viva les French kisses - National Assembly passes marriage equality bill

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The French National Assembly passed President François Hollande's marriage equality bill on February 12. The vote was 329-229, with Hollande's Socialists joining other left-leaning members to pass the measure over the objections of the right-wing opposition.

The result of the vote was greeted with cheers and applause from left-wing members, BBC News' Paris bureau reported.

'This law is going to extend to all families the protections guaranteed by the institution of marriage,' Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said before the vote.

'Contrary to what those who vociferate against it say - fortunately they're in the minority - this law is going to strengthen the institution of marriage.'

SENATE PROSPECTS GOOD
The bill now goes to the French Senate, where the Socialists also have a majority. Senators may amend the bill, and they can force the Assembly to debate it again, but they cannot legally prevent it from passing eventually even if they wanted to.

The Associated Press predicts that the law will be finalized in May or June.

The Assembly passed the first article of the bill - defining marriage as a contract between 'two persons' - on February 2 after a week of bitter debate. The final version of the bill includes a provision allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

'This law is a first necessary step, a social evolution that benefits society overall,' said Socialist Rep. Corinne Narassiguin, announcing her party's support for the measure.

'Opening up marriage and adoption to homosexual couples is a very beautiful advance ... It is an emblematic vote, a vote that will mark history.'

Hollande made the marriage bill one of the centerpieces of his 2012 presidential campaign. Shortly after he was elected president, his Socialist Party won a landslide victory in national parliamentary elections, giving him the opportunity to enact his legislative agenda.

CHURCH PLEDGES PROTESTS
Hollande did not get everything he wanted, however. The government backed off plans to link the marriage law to relaxed restrictions on fertility treatments, because of widespread objections to assisted reproduction.

That issue is expected to come up in a separate bill later this year.

The French Catholic Church, which spearheaded opposition to the marriage law, promised to hold more anti-equality demonstrations in March. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have been mobilized by both sides.

Equality opponents also threatened to take the issue to France's Constitutional Court, to determine whether the law, if finally passed, squares with existing law. The court has 12 members including three former French presidents and several other prominent conservatives.

'So it's not the end of the story yet,' said Hervé Mariton, a member of the right-wing opposition UMP party. Opinion polls suggest that around 55% to 60% of French people support same-sex marriage, though only about 50% approve of adoptions by same-sex couples.

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