France Girds for Debate after 'No' to Gay Marriage

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A major legal victory came last Friday for supporters of traditional marriage in France.

The country's Constitutional Court ruled a law banning gay marriage does not violate the French constitution.

The court said parliament can change the law if it desires. But it's unclear whether France's President Nicholas Sarkozy and lawmakers will take on the issue, right before elections next year.

Supporters of same-sex marriage say France needs to catch up with a number of other European countries that have already legalized the practice: the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal and Iceland. They said they are ready to debate the issue in the court of public opinion this year.

In its decision, the council noted that lawmakers had agreed that the "difference in situations of same-sex couples and couples made up of a man and a woman can justify a difference in treatment concerning family rights."

"We can only hail this decision, which respects our political-judicial tradition," said Christine Boutin, head of the small Christian-Democratic party. "The right to marry for homosexual couples would only be the first step before adoption follows."

A poll published Friday by Canal Plus TV among the French found 58 percent of respondents believe gays should be able to marry - a double-digit percentage point increase from a similar poll five years ago - while 35 percent believe they should not.

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