PARIS -- President Francois Hollande's Cabinet pushed ahead with a
controversial French bill Wednesday that could see gay marriage
legalized early next year, defying vocal opposition in the majority
Catholic country from religious leaders, the rural heartland and the
The French leader's top ministers
approved the bill legalizing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples,
sending it to the legislature for debate, only one day after two
American states, Maine and Maryland, became the first in the U.S. to
approve same-sex marriage in a popular vote.
Gay marriage has
become a contentious issue in France, where Hollande made it a liberal
cornerstone of his campaign, hoping it would create a clean break from
his conservative predecessor. At the time, it appeared to have the
backing of a majority of the population, but it has since turned into a
politically sensitive issue.
Though France would become the 12th
country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage if the bill passes,
the country of 60 million people would become the biggest so far in
terms of economic and diplomatic influence.
Polls show a majority
of French support gay marriage, but it has divided the country's left
and right, with lawmakers from the conservative UMP denouncing the
Cabinet approval Wednesday.
"It's the end of the family, the end
of children's development, the end of education. It's an enormous danger
to the nation," UMP Senator Serge Dassault said on the radio show
In France, a prominent conservative and former
prime minister, Francois Fillon, has opposed any gay marriage
legislation, and he plans to run in this month's election for the UMP
Amid the clamoring, the Socialists have decided to
delay the parliamentary debate about the bill until January, knowing
that it risks being modified or diluted by legislators.
Elsewhere in Europe, gay politics has also come to the fore this week.
Tuesday, Spain's Constitutional Court upheld the legality of the
country's gay marriage law, which was approved in 2005 when the
country's parliament was Socialist controlled.
The court rejected
an appeal contending that marriage in the constitution means only the
union of a man and woman. The county's top court voted 8-3 to dismiss
the appeal filed by the conservative Popular Party.
Party took power late last year after the Socialists were ousted over
their handling of the country's economic crisis.