Debate has begun in France's parliament over a government bill to legalize gay marriages and adoptions after weeks of strident objections from conservatives and the Catholic Church. The vote is due February 12.
Proposed gay reforms backed by President Francois Hollande, the Greens and France's Communists are expected to clear parliament despite some 5,000 amendments submitted by opponents to spoil the bill's passage.
Bridges throughout Paris were bedecked on Tuesday with anti gay banners hung out by opponents of the legislation.
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament that gay marriage was an "act of equality."
Opinion surveys have shown that a majority of French support Hollande' pledge made during his election campaign last year to emulate other European countries and give gay couples and their children rights equal to heterosexuals.
Church and civic groups put up stiffer-than-expected opposition. More than 340,000 opponents demonstrated in Paris on January 13. A rally involving bill supporters last weekend drew around 125,000 people.
In September, the archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, claimed the government's plans to redefine marriage would lead to incest and polygamy.
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who is one of France's few openly gay politicians, retorted that the cleric must have "flipped his lid."
Some concessions have already been made in the legislative draft. Plans to replace the terms "father" and "mother" with "parent 1" and "parent 2" have been dropped for heterosexual couples.
ipj/dr (dapd, dpa, AFP)
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