France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday amid violent protests in the nation’s capital. The vote was preceded by intense national debate that exposed deep social conservatism in the country’s heartland.
It also triggered huge protests in Paris from both sides of the debate. Hundreds of officers armed with water cannons were present outside the National Assembly for the vote on Tuesday.
But, despite the protests, France’s Socialist-majority Assembly passed the gay marriage measure by a vote of 331-225. The vote happened just minutes after the president of the assembly ejected a disruptive protester wearing pink — the color adopted by French people who oppose gay marriage.
Despite the outcome of the vote, demonstrations by opponents in Paris remained peaceful. There appeared to be more police than protesters outside the capital’s parliament building on the Left Bank as night fell.
Justice Minister Christine Taubira announced after the vote legalizing gay marriage that the first weddings could be as soon as June. Taubira added:
“We believe the 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.”
But, despite the encouragement by Taubira along with the sound victory for gay marriage supporters, not all opponents are conceding. Claire Baron, a mother of two, asserted that she “will oppose the bill until the end.” Baron added:
“I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad.”
The gay marriage debate has divided France in a way no other issue has recently. Violent attacks against gay couples spiked in the past few weeks as the vote drew closer. Some legislators have also received threats telling them not to vote for the gay marriage bill. A massive protest against gay marriage also took place.
That protest, which included hundreds of thousands of people, ended with blasts of tear gas as the crowd — some dressed in masks and hoods — led the charge against police. They damaged cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and also made a break for the presidential palace.
After the vote to legalize gay marriage went through, several supporters flocked into the streets to celebrate. Paris’ openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was among the crowd that celebrated in the Marais, the city’s historic gay neighborhood.
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