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Hollande calls for unity after France approves gay marriage

Platiau / Reuters

The French President, François Hollande, has called for “healing and unity” after France allowed same-sex marriage following months of bitter and divisive debate on the issue.

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On Tuesday, parliamentarians approved the bill to allow same-sex marriage and adoption rights, making France the 14th country in the world to allow gay marriage.

The government hopes the first same-sex marriage ceremonies will take place in June.

Alain Richard, a socialist Senator of the Val d'Oise, just outside Paris, told RFI the vote is a sign of social change for France.

“This was a commitment of the new president in his campaign, and this was contrary to the positions of the previous president, so it’s a product of political change, and this has been the case in most European countries at their moment of change,” he says.

“Thirty years ago, during the previous left-wing majority, we created the first system of civil union between people of the same gender and it was pretty controversial when the right basically opposed it. Then there was a political change when the right was in office for 10 years, and they modified this law several times without ever reducing its size, so my bet is that there will still be some controversy in the coming months, especially at the moment of the first actual marriages, but seeing this two or three years from now, I’m pretty convinced that this will become consensual,” he says.

However, opponents of the bill have mounted a challenge to the law with France’s Constitutional Council, arguing that the definition of marriage “cannot be modified by a simple law”.

The Council has three months to make a decision, but the government says it is “positive” the council will approve the law.

Frigide Barjot, who has been a vocal spokesperson against gay marriage, says the opposition movement is determined to fight on, and more opposition protests have been planned in May.

More than six months of public and parliamentary debate on the issue led to thousands of people – both for and against the bill – to protest on the streets of major cities, taking many commentators by surprise.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a former prime minister from the right-winged UMP, says: “This affair is not over,” adding that the issue is likely to feature heavily in municipal elections due next year.

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