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France's Senate approves marriage-equality bill; second reading necessary

PARIS – France’s Senate voted today to approve the marriage-equality bill. The vote was not close, and was conducted by a show of hands.

Because the Senate tinkered with minor items in the comprehensive bill, the measure will require a second vote by both the National Assembly and the Senate. The bill is expected to sail through the second reading.

The marriage-equality bill has stirred passions on both sides of the issue, although a thin majority supports the measure. Opponents have held large rallies against the bill, and anti-gay violence has spikes in recent weeks.

The Senate and the National Assembly are controlled by the Socialists and their allied political groups, and 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-leaning groups and others. The opposition included UMP and some centrist deputies.

Since 1999, France offered civil unions to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

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.

Marriage equality has been legalized in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay (later this year) and parts of the United States, Mexico and Brazil.