French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who steered the legislation through parliament, has said the first gay marriages could be celebrated as early as June.

Hollande, who promised to support “marriage for all” throughout his presidential campaign, said after the court ruling that it was “now time to respect the law and the Republic”.

A Constitutional Council statement following the ruling added a caveat, however, saying that the legality of gay adoption did not establish the “right to a child” and emphasising that the interests of the children involved would continue to be the overriding consideration.

The ruling comes after months of controversy and protests both for and against the bill that saw thousands taking to the streets and sporadic outbreaks of violence. France is secular but also overwhelmingly Catholic, and demonstrations against the bill drew hundreds of thousands ahead of the final parliamentary vote.

Opponents of the measures have vowed to continue their campaign, with a major protest rally scheduled for May 26 in Paris.

Overall, however, surveys indicate that almost 60 percent of the French population support Hollande’s vision of “marriage for all”.

Same-sex unions are legal in eight other European nations — the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Denmark.

 

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