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France's parliament takes key step toward marriage equality

PARIS -- France's National Assembly today voted overwhelmingly on the most important article of a bill that would legalize marriage equality in the heavily Catholic nation.

Deputes voted 249-97 to redefine marriage as being a legal agreement between two people, removing language limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

French President Francois Hollande won election in part because he promised voters that he would get marriage equality passed by lawmakers. His Socialist Party was joined by left-wing groups and others. The opposition included UMP and some centrist deputies.

The opposition has tacked on hundreds of amendments to the marriage bill, meaning that the National Assembly will have to endure numerous debates that are expected to last at least a week. The gay-adoption amendment is generating the most controversy, observers note.

Opinion polls consistently show that the French are supporting marriage equality by up to 60% and divided over gay adoption.

Once the National Assembly passes the marriage bill, which is expected, the measure will go to the Senate for debate.