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French gay marriage bill to face final reading this week

media The massive demonstration against gay marriage on 24 March Pierre Andrieu/AFP

France’s gay marriage law is to face its final reading in the lower house of parliament starting next Wednesday acter the Senate passed it on Friday. Passions are still running high with one senator accused of racism and a newspaper shareholder accused of interfering in the choice of advertisements.

The controversial same-sex marriage bill was passed by the Senate on Friday morning with a handful of senators, both left and right, crossing the floor to vote with their political opponents.

After 100 hours of debate in both houses, the vote was taken on a show of hands, arousing the ire of anti-gay marriage campaigner Frigide Barjot, who tweeted that it was “ridiculous”.

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It recognised the “full citizenship of homosexual couples”, Justice Minister Christine Taubira declared but right-wing former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin accused the left of adding “societal division to social crisis”.

The National Assembly will now have to ratify or amend changes made to the bill in the Senate, although the first clause, which legalises same-sex marriage and the right to adoption, remains the same and does not need to be voted on again.

The Senate debated 279 amendments, compared to 5,000 in the lower house, making the debate shorter although not lacking in acrimony.

Outraged Greens demanded an apology from right-wing Senator Bruno Retailleau after he told one of their members, Esther Benbassa, “We don’t have the same political colour; or other colours, by the way.”

Benbassa, who has three nationalities, French, Israeli and Turkish, had irritated her colleague by heckling him while he spoke.

After a suspension of the sitting, Retailleau told the house that he was referring to the colour of her politics and of her clothes.

Benbassa has red-dyed hair and was wearing a yellow jacket.

A high-profile supporter of gay marriage, Pierre Bergé, the partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent, sparked controversy outside parliament on Thursday with a tweet in which he declared himself “scandalised” by an advertisement for a demonstration against the measure placed in Le Monde newspaper.

Bergé, who owns share in the paper, said he would demand an explanation from the paper’s boss, Louis Dreyfus and declared the people who accepted it unworthy to work for the paper.

The statements sparked accusations that he was abusing his position as a shareholder to interfere in Le Monde’s editorial policy.

Bergé is being sued by anti-gay marriage campaigners for an earlier tweet ahead of the 24 March demonstration that they had hoped would take place on Paris’s Champs Elysées.

“If a bomb goes off on 24 March on the Champs because of [the demonstration], I won’t be crying,” he tweeted.

His opponents claim this was “incitement to commit an act of terrorism”.

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