(Photo: Reuters/REUTERS/Charles Platiau)
France's upper house of parliament voted in favor of same-sex marriage Friday, bringing the country one step closer to joining several other European countries that have already passed same-sex marriage laws.
News of the vote was met fierce opposition from conservatives and religious leaders in the country, who have maintained that any redefinition of marriage would adversely impact families and pose a legal risk to those who object to such unions based solely on their religious beliefs.
The bill, which was approved with a straight up or down vote, included minor amendments that will be debated in May when the bill comes before the lower house, where French President Francois Hollande's socialist party has an absolute majority.
Should the measure pass it would likely take effect sometime during the middle of the year.
France's justice minister, Christine Taubira, has been one of the country's leading supporters of same-sex marriage and insisted that the new law was needed to offer the same opportunities to gay couples that heterosexual couples already enjoy.
"These are children that scrape their knees, eat too much candy, don't like broccoli, drive you crazy ... we protect them," Taubira said in a statement after the vote. She added that the new law will "move our institutions towards ever more freedom, equality and personal respect."
However, conservative and religious leaders have continually stated that they will fight for traditional marriage and oppose any bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.
"The parliamentary process continues so we will keep talking with the French people who seem to change their position," UMP party senator Jean-Pierre Raffarin told AFP. "So nothing is definitive and the debate continues."
But France is not the only country currently debating legalizing same sex marriage. Officials in Scotland are meeting strong resistance from the Scottish Roman Catholic Church over plans to have Scotland become the first nation in the U.K. to legalize gay marriage.
"The church's teaching on marriage is unequivocal: It is uniquely the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that governments, politicians or parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality," read a letter published by the Scottish Roman Catholic Church.
Should France legalize gay marriage it would join 11 other countries including Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and South Africa.