On Tuesday,Francehas become the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage after the parliament approved a new law championed by President Francois Hollande, but it came at cost of 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 inFrancesince 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.
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament that,”Many French people will be proud this job is done.”
“Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds.” He added.
The episode has yet proved costly for the president who is already unpopular. Critics stated that, 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 which is 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 ofNiceon Saturday. Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned this week of “zero tolerance” for such violence.
Socialist and conservative lawmakers had come close to blows more than once during lengthy parliamentary debates on the law, which authorises adoption and marriage but will not allow gay couples to use medically assisted procreation.
Opponents of the law attempted to unveil a banner in parliament calling for a referendum before being taken away by security.
Herve Mariton, a member of the opposition UMP party, told lawmakers ahead of the vote said that, “You are adding a crisis to a crisis. You are stirring up tensions and are lighting the fuse of homophobia.”
France, a mainly Catholic country, follows 13 others includingCanada,Denmark,Swedenand most recentlyUruguayandNew Zealandin allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot.
In theUnited States,WashingtonD.C.and nine states have legalised same-sex marriage.
Unlike Mitterrand’s abolition of the death penalty, which most French people opposed at the time, polls showed more than half the country backed Hollande’s gay marriage law.
The gay community greeted the news with fanfare, with some rights groups dubbing April 23 the “Day of Love”. But opponents gathered outside parliament for fresh demonstrations.
The leader of the “anti” movement, a feisty female comedian who goes by her stage name Frigide Barjot, has vowed to continue protests that have brought thousands on to the streets beginning on May 5, the first anniversary of Hollande coming to power.