France Gay Marriage: It's Legal Now!

Another country has decided to take a stand on the subject of same-sex marriage. In France on Friday the Senate, the upper legislative body of the French parliament, voted to legalize same-sex marriage, 179-to-157. France will become the 13th country in the world and the ninth country in Europe to legalize and recognize same-sex marriage.

The French National Assembly approved the bill back in February in a 329-to-229 vote. The law is likely to be signed by President François Hollande, which would set the stage for the bill to become law in the summer. The votes come amid a highly charged atmosphere that has seen both pro and anti same-sex marriage advocates become increasingly vocal in support and opposition to the measure.

Opinion polls have generally put support for same-sex marriage at around 60%-65%, with an August 2012 poll by Ifop having support hit a high of 65%. The issue of same-sex adoption is much more controversial, with 53% of poll respondents supporting adoption rights for same-sex couples. As has become the usual trend in such polls, younger voters overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, with 81% of 18-24 year olds and 77% of 25-34 year olds supporting same-sex marriage. The largest opposition groups have been practicing Catholics and people over the age of 65, which demonstrate only 45% and 44% support for same-sex marriage respectively.

As the same-sex marriage bill made its way through the legislature, both pro- and anti-same-sex marriage advocates have held demonstrations in the streets. In March, hundred of thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris to protest the measure. The organizers of the March rally claim that 1.4 million showed up, but French police estimated that the crowd numbered around 300,000. This was a net drop in from a rally in January of about 40,000 people. The rally turned violent, with police being forced to deploy tear gas to keep the crowd under control

Meanwhile, same-sex marriage advocates were galvanized into the streets after a brutal attack was posted. On Tuesday Wilfred de Bruijn posted a picture to his Facebook of injuries that he took in an apparent homophobic attack on him and his partner. The shocking photos lead to a protest in Paris decrying homophobia. LGBT activists in France have claimed that as the same-sex marriage bill has moved through the legislature, there has been in uptick in homophobic and transphobic attacks on ordinary citizens. According to Elizabeth Ronzier, head of SOS Homophobie, there has been a 30% rise in reports of homophobic and transphobic attacks last year compared to 2011. There was sharp rise in autumn, when the same-sex marriage debate began to be reported. "And in the two months to the end of February this year, we received the same amount of testimonies that we would normally get over a period of six months," she said.

Although the bill has had a rocky road in reaching this stage, President Hollande is expected to sign the bill soon and see it implemented by summer. The vote comes right off the coattails of a vote in the Latin American country of Uruguay to legalize same-sex marriage. With this vote, France joins a small but growing number of countries which seek to extend equal rights to all.