Amidst a wave of anti-gay violence, France has become the ninth European country and the 14th in the world to legalise marriage equality for all of its citizens.
On Tuesday, the country’s Assembly approved a same-sex marriage bill, which also legalises gay adoption, with 331 for and 225 against in a final vote on the legislation.
The issue has sharply divided France, with a series of mass protests for and against the law being held in Paris over the last few months.
It has also radicalised conservatives and led to a dramatic increase in homophobic hate crimes. On Saturday, Rapha�l Leclerc, a 24-year-old gay man, was attacked in the French capital by a group of homophobic thugs.
During the parliamentary debate on Tuesday, the proceedings were disrupted by an anti-gay protestor dressed in pink who was ejected from the venue.
The vote also resulted in protests in Paris turning violent into the night. Hundreds of demonstrators threw objects at police who responded with tear gas.
The European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA-Europe) welcomed the passage of the law but admitted that the victory was not an easy one.
It said that it regretted “that some elected politicians and members of the public opposing equality resorted to campaigning techniques which led to a wave of homophobia and violence”.
Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, commented: “We congratulate the French parliamentarians and the French nation for this historic step. The country whose motto is Libert�, �galit�, fraternit� has finally fully applied it to all citizens when it comes to marriage.
“Equality cannot be partial, if a country is serious about equality for same-sex partners and their families, it means removing all legal obstacles and differences, it means equal access to marriage and adoption entitlement,” Paradis added.
The first same-sex weddings in France are expected to start taking place in June.
“We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they’ll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families,” said Justice Minister Christiane Taubira.
Opponents of same-sex marriage, who want a referendum on the issue, have vowed to continue to fight the implementation of the law and have appealed for the country’s Constitutional Court to strike it down.
They have also threatened to hold more mass demonstrations against the law.