The French National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on a draft law to legalize same sex marriage and adoption by homosexual couples. The measure now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass.
Hundreds of protestors gathered outside the National Assembly on Tuesday to protest the bill. French Catholics along with French Muslims and evangelical Christians oppose the law.
But polls show that most French people support legalizing gay marriage.
"We won't judge people in terms of their sexual orientation by differentiating any more," said Bruno Le Roux, leader of the Socialist Members of Parliament. "It's one fewer difference to be made, so it really is a great day for equal rights."
About a dozen European nations allow same-sex marriage.
France has already legalized civil unions for same-sex couples, but the new law would give gay couples the rights to adopt.