The Socialist parliamentary group on Wednesday agreed not to table an amendment that would have enabled lesbian couples to have children by medically assisted means after being promised that it will be included in a planned family law.
Socialist leaders earlier floated the idea as a possible compromise with religious and right-wing opponents of the bill that would legalise marriage for all, including same-sex couples.
The move comes ahead of a planned demonstration on Sunday 13 January, a follow-up to two previous national mobilisations against the “marriage for all” bill.
Although only evangelical Protestants have officially backed the demonstration, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic leaders oppose the move and have joined previous protests. The mainstream right-wing UMP has supported them, while the far-right Front National has been split over whether to officially call on its members to turn out.
An opinion poll on Tuesday showed 60 per cent of French people in favour of gay marriage, although most considered a “secondary” question, but only 46 per cent in favour of medically assisted procreation.
But the Socialists want to avoid a head-on confrontation with religious groups, remembering that the last Socialist president, François Hollande, backed down on plans to abolish Catholic schools after a million people demonstrated against it in 1984.
“I observe that every time the left is in power the Catholic hierarchy hits the streets,” commented leading Socialist MP Jean-Christophe Camadélis on RFI on Tuesday.
On Friday Education Minister Vincent Peillon called for “the greatest vigilance” against homophobic outbursts after Catholic education chief Eric de Labarre suggested that religious schools might organise debates on the question.
About two million pupils are in private schools, many of the Catholic, in France.
Marriage for all was one of President François Hollande's most publicised campaign promises.