French President Francois Hollande has signed into law a bill allowing same-sex marriage, making France the 14th country to legalize gay weddings.
France’s official journal yesterday announced the bill had become law after the French Constitutional Council gave it the go-ahead on Friday.
The bill, a campaign pledge by the socialist president, has been for months hotly contested by many conservatives in France, where allowing gay marriage is one of the biggest social reforms since abolition of the death penalty in 1981.
Opponents have staged huge and often violent demonstrations against the bill and have called yet another protest on Sunday next week. The leader of opposition to gay marriage, a political activist and humorist who goes by the name Frigide Barjot, has said the protest would draw millions into the streets.
Montpellier Mayor Helene Mandroux, who is due to celebrate France’s first gay marriage in the city on May 29, said the law marked a major social advance.
France, a predominantly Catholic country, follows 13 others — including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently, Uruguay and New Zealand — in allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. In the US, Washington DC and 12 states have legalized same-sex marriage.
Polls showed more than half the country backed gay marriage.
Nonetheless, with Hollande’s popularity ratings at record-lows a year into office, the law has proved costly for the French president, with critics saying it has distracted his attention from reviving the recession-hit economy.