By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 14:17 EDT
France’s Senate on Wednesday approved the crucial first article of a bill granting gay couples the right to marry, clearing the way for a law that has sparked protests from conservatives and religious groups.
The upper house approved the article overnight by a vote of 179 to 157, with all Senators from the ruling Socialists voting in favour and five from the main opposition right-wing UMP breaking ranks with their colleagues to approve it.
The full bill must still be approved by the Senate, as well as another controversial article granting homosexual couples the right to adopt. A final vote is expected on Thursday or Friday.
The head of the Socialists’ Senate faction, Francois Rebsamen, said the vote “marked a victory in the fight against homophobia and for tolerance and democracy.”
The bill - which was approved with only minor amendments - is now certain to become law after a final vote in the lower house, expected in May.
Friday's Senate vote, by a show of hands, came after senators had on Wednesday approved the first article of the bill allowing gay couples to marry and adopt, by 179 votes to 157.
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira praised the result, saying the Senate had strengthened French society "by granting the simple recognition of full citizenship to homosexual couples".
The bill is now set to become law after technical second readings in both houses of parliament.