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After lengthy and hot debate, France's legislators gave the green light to same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, the Socialists' strongest social reform that sparked series of violent protests and homophobic attacks.|
As the ruling Socialist Party (PS) enjoys an absolute majority at the National Assembly where 331 legislators voted for the bill and 225 voted against, it successfully paved the way for France to join dozens of other countries, mostly in Europe, to allow same-sex unions and adoption.
"This is a generous law that you voted... The responsibility of political power is to fight against discrimination for citizens," Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament.
"Many French people will be proud this job is done. Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds," she added, expecting to celebrate the country's first same-sex wedding by June.
President Francois Hollande, dogged by the lowest popularity of any recent French president, hoped to overturn deficits in ratings and snatch some glory from achieving one of his campaign promises.
"This day will remain a great date for equality. France has chosen the path of brotherhood, not the intolerance and hatred," Harlem Desir, the secretary general of PS, said.
"This law is a victory for equality, a forward step for the society... Every Socialist now feels immense pride in having participated in the progress of republican values," he added in a statement posted on the party's website.
However, in the right camp, the conservatives denounced a law that would further stir violence and appealed to the Constitutional Council to scrutinize the bill.
"You add crisis to crisis. You light the wick of homophobia," Herve Mariton, UMP legislator told parliament.
Unlike abolition of the death penalty in 1981, which most French people were opposed to at the time, more than half of voters in the country were in favor of gay marriage, according to the country's pollsters.
Shortly after the law's final approval, the gay community hailed with glory with some rights groups dubbing April 23 the "Day of Love." But hundreds of opponents gathered outside parliament for a new demonstration.
Chanting "Hollande resign" and waving slogan "don't touch marriage, take care of unemployment," participants of "the Manif for All," which is a main association against the same-sex marriage, refused to bow and pledged further protests next month.
"If some think that it's finished, we'll show them that it is not so... I solemnly ask the president to submit the draft to a referendum. This law is not legitimate," Frigid Barjo, the association's president, told the news channel i>tele.
A 22-year-old anti-gay marriage protester was arrested on charges of violence against one of the National Assembly's officer, the daily Le Figaro said on its website.
According to media reports, 257 opponents were arrested during recent protests where violent confrontations with police erupted and several homophobic attacks were reported.
In a further sign of rising tension, President of the National Assembly Claude Bartolone received on Monday a death warning. "You wanted war, you've got it," it was written in an envelope which contained gunpowder.
"The opponents feel being totally ignored and rejected as the government stands firm in refusing their requests and in their eyes, that is unacceptable. So protests become uncontrolled and violent," Claire Piaut, an analyst at CAS pollster, told Xinhua.
According to the national statistics institute INSEE, 100,000 same-sex couples were numbered in 2011.
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (L) is greeted by left-wing legislators after the vote on same-sex marriage at the French Parliament in Paris, April 23, 2013. As the ruling Socialist Party (PS) enjoys an absolute majority at the National Assembly where 331 legislators voted for the bill and 225 voted against, it successfully paved the way for France to join dozens of other countries, mostly in Europe, to allow same-sex unions and adoption.(Xinhua/Etienne Laurent)