PARIS – France will see its first gay weddings within days, after French President Francois Hollande signed a law Saturday authorizing marriage and adoption by same-sex couples and ending months of nationwide protests and wrenching debate.
The signing came a day after the Constitutional Council struck down a challenge to the law and ruled it in line with France’s constitution. France is the most populous country to have legal gay marriages, and the 14th country worldwide.
According to French law, couples must register to marry in city hall and wait at least 10 days before holding a ceremony, so that anyone objecting to the union – such as an existing spouse – has time to intervene.
Hollande, a Socialist, had made legalizing gay marriage one of his campaign pledges last year. While polls for years have shown majority support for gay marriage in France, adoption by same-sex couples is more controversial.
The parliamentary debate exposed a deep conservatism and attachment to traditional families in France’s rural core that is often eclipsed by and at odds with libertine Paris.
But mostly, it tapped into deep discontent with the Socialist government, largely over Hollande’s handling of the economy. Months of anti-gay marriage protests became a flashpoint for frustrations with Hollande, and occasionally degenerated into violence.
In addition, gay rights groups reported a rise in attacks on homosexuals as the parliamentary debate was underway. Protest organizers distanced themselves from the troublemakers.
The opposition isn’t ready to give up. It plans a protest May 26 that aims to parlay the success of the anti-gay marriage movement into a broader anti-Hollande one. Among those expected to attend is Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the opposition UMP party, riven by divisions and struggling for direction since Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidency last year.