MONTPELLIER, France -- Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau made history today when they became the first same-gender couple to marry in France.
Autin, 40, and Boileau, 30, wed at City Hall in Montpellier, a city known as the "gay San Francisco" of France.
About 500 guests, including the local mayor, witnessed this historic ceremony, and thousands celebrated outside. The city webcasted the ceremony, fearing that any public event would trigger clashes with homophobes and anti-gay activists who oppose marriage equality.
Autin, who leads the local lesbian and gay pride association, and Boileau have been a couple for six years. They were the first to apply to marry after France voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-gender marriage.
The marriage debate has triggered fierce opposition from an unlikely coalition that includes the Catholic Church, anarchists, conservatives, radicals and skinheads. Many observers believe that the street protests have little to do with marriage and more to do with politics and the economy.
The couple spoke to CNN today before their marriage:
"When French children are born into this world, they are born with the same rights as everyone else -- but from the moment you said you were a homosexual, society deprived you of some of those rights," Autin told CNN in the couple's only interview on their wedding day.
Today the French Republic has given these rights back to us, the ones they had taken away, and it has put an end to an institutional discrimination."
While France has allowed civil partnerships for some years, controversial legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt was signed into law by President Francois Hollande 10 days ago.
Boileau said he and Autin plan to build a family together.
"We want children, we want to pass down values that are important to us, that we hold dear, that are right. And we want grandchildren and great-grandchildren, a real family," he said.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands (and the Caribbean island of Saba), New Zealand (August 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (Aug. 1, 2013).
In Mexico, same-sex marriage is available in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the states of Oaxaca and Quintana Roo. The marriages are recognized nationwide by Supreme Court order.
In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in Connecticut, Delaware (July 1, 2013), Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (Aug. 1), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.