BRUSSELS, Belgium — France's National Assembly has voted to approve a bill granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. The bill passed 329 to 229, with 10 abstentions. The result was greeted with long applause from left of center parties that backed the government bill.
The law must still be passed by the Senate, where debate is scheduled to open in April. Opponents of the bill have also indicated they could present a challenge at the Constitutional Court, but the Socialist government is hopeful that the "marriage for all" legislation can be in place before the end of the year.
The issue has polarized French society with both sides staging massive demonstrations in Paris in the run up to the parliamentary debate. Conservative and religious groups have battled against the bill claiming it undermines the family and infringes children's rights. Supporters say it's a necessary step for ending discrimination and recognizing changes in society.
Britain is currently undergoing a parallel process after the House of Commons approved a similar bill last month. The issue has divided the ruling Conservative Party, with Prime Minister David Cameron strongly supporting the proposal against the right of his own party. A vote in the upper house of parliament is expected in the coming months. Several other European countries including Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have already legalized gay marriage.
"The government is proud of this reform because it follows a long line of reforms in our republic for equality and against discrimination," said Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. "This law will give all families the protection guaranteed by the institution of marriage."