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France soars over last big hurdle in race to marriage equality

PARIS – France’s Senate today took a huge step toward approving marriage equality in the first of a series of votes on the proposed law.

After more than 10 hours of debate, the Senate voted 179-157 on Section 1 of the bill, which will remove all gender references on marriage applications.
The upper chamber did not change the language of the bill, which was approved 329-229 by the National Assembly on Feb. 12 with 10 deputies abstaining.

Section 1 is considered the biggest hurdle, and now the Senate will vote one-by-one on the remaining sections of the bill. Debates and votes will continue at least through Friday and maybe into the weekend.

After the bill is approved, as is now expected, the measure will not return to the National Assembly for a second reading as long as it is not amended by the Senate.

Gay and lesbian couples in France most likely will be able to marry by summer, though a specific date will not be announced until the marriage bill is signed into law.

The bill Senate and the National Assembly are controlled by the Socialists and their allied political groups. 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.

Marriage equality is offered in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay and parts of the United States, Mexico and Brazil.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of U.S.-based Freedom to Marry, applauded today's vote by the French Senate.

“France is poised to become the latest country -- 16 on four continents -- where loving and committed gay couples can share in the freedom to marry, and it won't be the last this year. Like France, the United States extols liberty, equality, and fairness; it is time for our country, too, to end the denial of marriage and live up to our best values.”