Hollande Introduces Same-Sex Marriage Bill in French Cabinet

French President Francois Hollande’s government introduced a bill allowing same-sex marriage, challenging religious leaders and the main opposition party.

The proposal in today’s Cabinet meeting, one of Hollande’s campaign promises, will be debated in Parliament in January and February.

“This is a step forward toward equality, a step that had been delayed for too long,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told a press conference in Paris. Hollande told ministers the bill must represent “progress not just for some but for society as a whole,” she said.

Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement party is seeking to block the bill. France’s Catholic leader, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, said in a sermon on Nov. 3 that it would be the “ultimate fraud” and that children should be “raised with a mother and a father as their reference point.” Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders also oppose the measure.

“The president said today the bill was going to create a debate and that this debate is legitimate, but it must be controlled and respectful of opinions as well as beliefs,” Vallaud-Belkacem said.

Court Ruling

The bill follows a January ruling by France’s constitutional court, which stated that parliament had the right to restrict marriage to a man and a woman. The decision, published on the court’s website, said that “the different situation between a couple made up of partners of the same sex and a couple composed of a man and woman can justify a difference in treatment as to family law.”

Opponents of the same-sex marriage bill plan rallies around the country on Nov. 17.

Spain’s highest court upheld a law legalizing gay marriage today, ending a seven-year battle to overturn one of the biggest legislative victories of former Socialist Party Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. Same-sex marriage won approval yesterday from voters in the U.S. states of Maine and Maryland, according to the Associated Press, the first time gay unions have been endorsed at the ballot box in the U.S.

A poll published in Le Monde newspaper today showed that 65 percent of French voters support same-sex marriage, up from 63 percent one year ago and from 48 percent in 1996. The survey showed that support for gay adoption dropped to 52 percent from 58 percent last year, though that was up from 33 percent in 1996. The Paris-based Ifop institute polled 1,371 people online age 18 and older between Oct. 29 and Oct. 31. It didn’t publish margins of error.

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