French MPs overwhelmingly back key gay rights clause

Reuters/Charles Platiau

France’s parliament has approved the first and most important article of the government’s law legalising same-sex marriage. MPs voted 249-97 to redefine marriage as an agreement between two people rather than between a man and a woman.


Left-wing MPs greeted the vote with a standing ovation, although one Communist Party member, Patrice Carvalho, voted against.

Only one MP from the mainstream right-wing UMP, the openly gay mayor of Coulommiers, near Paris, Franck Riester, vote for it, while two others abstained.

We are happy and proud to have taken this first step. We are going to establish the freedom for everyone to choose his or her partner for a future together.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira

The UMP has joined conservative Catholics and hard-right groups in opposing the law.

As well as filibustering by raising points of order, demanding suspensions of sittings and intervening frequently in the debate, right-wingers tabled more than 5,000 amendments in a bid to hold up the vote.

The house voted 183-85 against a number of UMP amendments that would have deleted the article and 171-71 against a number proposing a “civil alliance” as an alternative to marriage for gay couples. France has had a civil partnership, known as Pacs, since 1999.

UMP MP Philippe Gosselin accused the government of ramming the legislation through.

"Today it is marriage and adoption. Tomorrow it will be medically assisted conception and surrogate mothers," he said.

The UMP has called for a referendum on the issue, buoyed up by massive demonstrations against the bill, and the government dropped support for an amendment legalising medically assisted conception.

The bill faces at least another week of parliamentary scrutiny before a final vote scheduled for 12 February.

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