Tens of thousands gather to back gay marriage in Paris

Tens of thousands gather to back gay marriage in Paris

PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Tens of thousands gather to back gay marriage in Paris

he gay rights rally was also backed by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. According to the organizers the turnout at the rally was 400,000. AFP photo

Tens of thousands of gay rights campaigners packed the streets of Paris on Sunday to call for the legalisation of gay marriage, two days before a key parliamentary debate on the hugely divisive issue.

Waving rainbow flags and carrying banners reading "For equality now, against discrimination always", the demonstrators rallied to promote their cause exactly two weeks after hundreds of thousands descended on the French capital to protest against government plans to legalise gay marriage and adoption.

The proposed legislation, which has come in for strong objection from the mainstream centre-right opposition, the Catholic church and France's five-million-strong Muslim community, is due to be debated in parliament on Tuesday.

Gay rights advocates Gaston and Andree Pelot, both 68, said they had joined Sunday's march to support "our ideas, equality and our (gay) son", adding that gay marriage was "obvious".

Police estimated that around 125,000 people had turned out for Sunday's rally, while organisers put the figure at 400,000. The turnout was higher than at previous marches but still lower than the number of people who protested against same-sex marriage on January 13.

The gay rights rally was backed by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who on Saturday said there was "no doubt" about the outcome of the equality bill. "A law will be passed and with a large majority too," he said.

The proposed legislation stems from a promise by President Francois Hollande in his election manifesto last year.

The Socialist leader has dismissed opponents' calls for a referendum on the controversial topic and is already pencilled in to attend one of France's first gay marriages once the legislation is enacted later this year.

Despite months of protests, opinion polls have consistently shown that most voters support the right of homosexual couples to wed.

A recent Ifop survey found that 63 percent of respondents were in favour of gay unions. But they were highly divided on whether same-sex couples should have the right to adopt, with 49 percent saying they were in favour compared to 51 percent against.