Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the APNZ News Service office in Wellington.

France legalises gay marriage after harsh debate

Pro-gay marriage activists celebrate with champagne after French lawmakers legalised same-sex marriage. Photo / AP
Pro-gay marriage activists celebrate with champagne after French lawmakers legalised same-sex marriage. Photo / AP

Just days after New Zealand voted gay marriage into law, France has followed suit, becoming the 14th country to do so.

France's lower house National Assembly overnight (NZT) adopted a bill legalising same-sex marriages and adoptions for gay couples, following months of opposition protests.

In its final reading, a majority of lawmakers approved the bill by a vote of 331 to 225, French media website thelocal.fr reported.

"After 136 hours and 46 minutes of debate, Parliament has adopted the law opening marriage to same-sex couples," the Socialist speaker of the Assembly, Claude Bartolone, said after the vote.

Unlike the largely joyous occasion in New Zealand, with talk in Parliament of "the most enormous big gay rainbow", the French vote was clouded in acrimony.

As the vote took place, minor scuffles broke out in the public gallery and some opponents of the bill had to be forcefully ejected.

"Get these enemies of democracy out of the parliament," Mr Bartolone shouted.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira hailed the adoption of the bill as an "historic" moment in French history.

"It grants new rights, stands firmly against discrimination (and) testifies to our country's respect for the institution of marriage," she said in a statement shortly after the vote.

"This law ... brightens the horizons of many of our citizens who were deprived of these rights," she said.

The bill must still be signed by President Francois Hollande but shortly after the vote, lawmakers from right-wing parties said they had already filed a legal challenge with France's constitutional council.

The council will have a month to make a ruling and opponents were hoping that in the meantime they could build up enough pressure to force Mr Hollande, who has been steadfast in supporting the bill, to back down from signing it.

Across town in Paris' gay district, le Marais, supporters gathered to celebrate the passing of the bill.

Last Wednesday, New Zealand Parliament passed a law legalising gay marriage, 77 votes to 44, amid loud shows of jubilation from the floor and the gallery.

The declaration of the vote was followed by a waiata.

MPs held a conscience vote on the private member's bill sponsored by gay Labour MP Louisa Wall.

The bill will take effect in mid-August, and comes 27 years after New Zealand decriminalised homosexuality.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 16 Apr 2014 20:37:09 Processing Time: 547ms