PARIS – Vive la France! The National Assembly voted 331-225 today to legalize marriage equality in France.
The final vote brings to an end months of contentious debate and street protests from conservatives and religious factions, led by the Roman Catholic Church, that oppose same-sex marriage. The emotions were very high today in the National Assembly, and at one point several people were seen shoving each other in the gallery.
The passage of the bill brought out loud applause and cheers from the 331 lawmakers who voted for marriage equality.
Outside the hallowed hall, police stood guard with water cannons to maintain order.
Also, the heated marriage debate has been punctured by a spike in anti-gay violence against LGBT individuals and establishments.
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. There is an outside chance that the law could be challenged to the Constitutional Council, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court.
French President Francois Hollande won election in part because he promised voters that he would get marriage equality passed by lawmakers. The Senate and the National Assembly are controlled by the Socialists and their allied political groups, including left-leaning and progressive groups. The opposition included UMP and some centrist deputies.
Since 1999, France offered civil unions to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Marriage equality has been legalized in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand (later this year) Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Uruguay (later this year) and parts of the United States, Mexico and Brazil.
HRC president Chad Griffin congratulated the French.
“Today’s news out of France is a reminder that momentum for LGBT equality is growing exponentially not just here in the United States, but across the globe," he said. "In the past few weeks, three countries – France, New Zealand, and Uruguay – have affirmed that all people deserve the same rights, dignity and protections. The milestone victories we’re achieving here at home and the progress we’re seeing abroad should serve not only as beacons of hope for the future, but also as a reminder of the work we have ahead of us to create a world where all people are treated fairly.”