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French president signs same-sex marriage bill into law

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
May 18, 2013 -- Updated 1838 GMT (0238 HKT)
People celebrate in Paris on April 23, 2013, after the French National Assembly adopted a bill legalizing same-sex marriages.
People celebrate in Paris on April 23, 2013, after the French National Assembly adopted a bill legalizing same-sex marriages.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Couple plans first such ceremony
  • France is the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage
  • Conservatives and the Catholic Church in France opposed the move
  • 12 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage

(CNN) -- French President Francois Hollande signed into law Saturday a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt.

It came a day after the nation's top court, the Constitutional Council, ruled that the bill adheres to the constitution.

"The most historic part is that future generations will no longer have to ask themselves if they have the right to marry and if they are recognized by their country because now they are," Vincent Autin told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

He and his companion said they plan to become the first same-sex couple to tie the knot in France when they do so on May 29 in Montpellier.

The city in southern France issued a statement inviting people to attend.

Autin, who had campaigned for the change, said the new law represents "the vision of modernity, the vision of equality, the vision of respect for all and for all couples, all the children."

In a last-ditch attempt to stop the bill from becoming law, conservative opponents filed a legal challenge after lawmakers approved it.

Passing legislation to allow same-sex marriage was one of Hollande's election pledges in campaigning last year.

In a statement Friday, he recognized the controversial nature of the bill, but said France was able to listen to and respect different points of view.

"I'm convinced that with the passage of time this law will be seen for what it is: progress for equality and for freedom," he said.

The move was opposed by many conservatives and the Catholic Church in France, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to turn out for protest marches in Paris as politicians debated the bill.

Many conservatives and the Catholic Church opposed the move, prompting hundreds of thousands of protesters to march in Paris as politicians debated the bill.

Same-sex marriage: Who will legalize it next?

France to vote on same-sex marriage law
Will France approve same-sex marriage?

The new law, published Saturday morning after Hollande's signature, admits France to a small but growing club.

It is the ninth country in Europe to allow same sex marriage.

Lawmakers in New Zealand this year made it the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalize same-sex marriage. The law is set to be enacted later this year.

Uruguayan lawmakers have also approved a measure allowing same-sex marriage. It awaits the signature of Uruguay's president, who has indicated he supports it.

If the laws in New Zealand and Uruguay are enacted as expected, the count of nations allowing same-sex marriage will rise to 14.

The first same-sex couples walked down the aisle in the Netherlands in 2001, with others following suit in Canada, South Africa, Belgium and Spain. Argentina was the first Latin American nation to legalize such marriages, in 2010. Other countries on the list are Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden.

Many countries remain split over the issue. A Brazilian court this week issued a directive removing a barrier that had limited same-sex marriage, but no bill has made it through Congress.

Legislators in the United Kingdom are also weighing proposals to legalize same-sex marriage. Lawmakers in Australia voted against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage last September. A poll for the advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality indicated that 64% of those surveyed "support marriage equality."

In the United States, the question went before the Supreme Court and justices are deliberating over the matter.

Twelve U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriages. On the other side, many states have specific laws blocking same-sex couples from legally marrying.

CNN's Pierre Meilhan contributed to this report

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