French gay marriage law gets constitutional all-clear

PARIS Fri May 17, 2013 11:22pm IST

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PARIS (Reuters) - France's Constitutional Council cleared the way on Friday for same-sex marriage, throwing out a last-ditch effort by opponents to scupper the country's biggest social reform since abolition of the death penalty.

After months of sometimes violent street demonstrations, the Council gave the go-ahead to a law that will make France the 14th country to legalize gay weddings, in line with an election promise by Socialist President Francois Hollande.

Hollande has promised to rapidly sign a bill that lawmakers adopted in late April, raising the prospect that the first gay weddings in France could take place within weeks.

"The law allowing same-sex marriage conforms with the constitution," the council said in a statement.

While late Socialist President Francois Mitterrand braved opposition by most French people to abolish the death penalty in 1981, polls show more than half the country backs Hollande's move to allow couples of the same sex tie the knot.

France, a predominantly Catholic country, follows 13 others including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. In the United States, Washington D.C. and 12 states have legalized same-sex marriage.

(Reporting By Emile Picy; writing by Brian Love; editing by Mark John)

(This story is refiled to correct number of states where same-sex marriage is legal to 12)

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