The French National Assembly on Saturday approved the key article of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and grant gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt children.
Deputies voted 249-97 to back the clause eliminating opposite gender as a condition of the right to marriage.
The law still faces more than a week of discussion in parliament before it will go to a final vote on February 12, reported AFP. The article that passed Saturday was supported by deputies from the majority ruling Socialist Party, as well as others from the Green and leftist parties, and one member of the center-right UMP.
“We are happy and proud to have taken this first step,” Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told AFP. “We are going to establish the freedom for everyone to choose his or her partner for a future together.”
President Francois Hollande’s “marriage for everyone” pledge has seen hundreds of thousands of supporters and opponents take to the Paris streets in separate demonstrations in the past two weeks.
More than 125,000 people marched in Paris last Sunday in support of the bill that would legalize marriage and adoption for same-sex couples.
Two weeks earlier, a crowd estimated at 340,000 turned out for a demonstration to oppose the marriage equality bill.
Opinion polls have said 55 to 60 percent of the French support gay marriage, but only 50 percent support gay adoption.
BBC reported that the ease with which the article passed suggests the bill as a whole will pass, including the other key measure in the bill, which would allow gay couples to adopt children.
The bill marks one of France’s biggest social reforms since the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.