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French president signs marriage equality bill into law

French President Francois Hollande has signed the law authorizing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

He signed the bill early May 18 after the French Constitutional Council issued a finding that the measure is constitutional. That review was prompted by a challenge to the law. The council ruled that the law did not infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty."

BBC News reported that Hollande, at the signing, said, "I have taken (the decision); now it is time to respect the law of the Republic."

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has said the first same-sex weddings could take place as early as June, possibly in about two weeks.

The French National Assembly on April 23 cast its final vote for marriage equality. 

In the days and months ahead of the final votes in Parliament, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated, sometimes in violent protest against the equality measure. At one of the demonstrations in Paris, right-wing demonstrators wearing masks charged at police, damaged cars and attempted to reach the presidential palace, according to The Associated Press.

Hollande urged calm and peace and condemned the violence.

France has recognized civil unions – for same-sex and opposite-sex couples – since 1999.

Lawmakers rejected more than 5,000 amendments intended to weaken the marriage equality bill before the final vote.

This spring, Uruguay and New Zealand also have held votes to advance marriage equality.

Same-sex couples can marry in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, Argentina and Denmark. Same-sex couples can also marry in parts of the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

In the United States this spring, Rhode Island, and Delaware and Minnesota have passed bills to legalize same-sex marriage.

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