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France approves gay marriage

The president's signature ended months of turmoil. Weddings will occur in days.

Two women pose during a demonstration in Paris in support of same-sex marriage and adoption.
Two women pose during a demonstration in Paris in support of same-sex marriage and adoption.Read moreBENJAMIN GIRETTE / Associated Press, File

PARIS - France will see its first gay weddings within days, after French President Francois Hollande signed a law Saturday authorizing marriage and adoption by same-sex couples and ending months of nationwide protests and wrenching debate.

Hollande's office said he signed the bill Saturday morning, a day after the Constitutional Council struck down a challenge to the law and ruled it in line with France's constitution.

Hollande, a Socialist, had made legalizing gay marriage one of his campaign pledges last year. While polls for years have shown majority support for gay marriage in France, adoption by same-sex couples is more controversial.

The parliamentary debate exposed a deep conservatism and attachment to traditional families in France's rural core that is often eclipsed by and at odds with libertine Paris.

But mostly, it tapped into deep discontent with the Socialist government, largely over Hollande's handling of the economy. Months of antigay marriage protests became a flash point for frustrations with Hollande, and occasionally degenerated into violence.

In addition, gay rights groups reported a rise in attacks on homosexuals as the parliamentary debate was underway. Protest organizers distanced themselves from the troublemakers.

The opposition isn't ready to give up. It plans a protest May 26 that aims to parlay the success of the antigay marriage movement into a broader anti-Hollande one. Among those expected to attend is Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the opposition UMP party, riven by divisions and struggling for direction since Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidency last year.

Hollande warned that he wouldn't accept any disruption of France's first gay marriages.

One couple signed up Saturday to tie the knot on May 29 in the gay-friendly southern French city of Montpellier.

"We're very happy that today we can finally talk of love after all the talk of legislation and political battles," one of the future newlyweds, Vincent Autin, said on France-Info radio.

France is the most populous country to have legal gay marriages, and the 14th country worldwide. In the United States, Minnesota became the 12th state in the country to legalize same-sex unions on Tuesday.