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French lower house approves gay marriage bill


France's National Assembly has voted in favor of a bill approving gay marriage, after 10 days of intense debate. The proposal, an election promise from President Francois Hollande, must also clear the Senate.

Politicians in Paris on Tuesday approved a new law allowing homosexual couples to marry. The National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, approved the bill at a vote by a tally of 329 to 229, with nine absentees and 10 abstentions.

Allowing gay couples to marry was one of the campaign pledges from Socialist President Francois Hollande in last year's election.

Most center-right UMP politicians and far-right National Front members opposed the move, according to French newspaper "Le Figaro".

The bill, which has prompted public demonstrations for and against gay marriage and a robust parliamentary debate, must also clear the French Senate after a debate scheduled to begin on April 2.

Hollande's party does not have an outright Senate majority, where the vote is expected to be much closer, but other left-leaning representatives in the upper house are considered likely to support the motion.

The French government is also seeking approval for lesbian couples to be permitted to seek children via artificial insemination. The current draft law would not permit this, French news agency AFP reports, although Hollande's allies are seeking to include the motion in a planned law on family matters.

Though the motion has prompted protests on both sides, opinion polls suggest that more than 60 percent of French people support gay marriage. The margin of approval is considerably narrower when it comes to gay adoption and lesbian artificial insemination. Gay and lesbian people can already adopt individually, though not as a couple, if they pass the usual vetting processes.

msh/jlw (AFP, dpa, KNA, Reuters)

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