France’s parliament has passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, despite stern opposition from Catholics and conservatives, becoming the ninth nation in Europe and the fourteenth nation on earth do so.

New Zealand approved a similar measure last week.

Prior to the passage, thousands of French men and women demonstrated against the proposal in raucous protests in Paris and elsewhere. One protest in Paris in January attracted at least 340,000 people -- organizers claimed 800,000 showed up. Many of these demonstrations were apparently organized or endorsed by far-right-wingers.

In anticipation of further unrest from both supporters and opponents of the bill, police have stepped up security in public squares and on boulevards where violence could erupt.

Socialist President Francois Hollande, who has long advocated for same-sex marriage rights, is likely to sign the bill after it moves through any challenges to the constitutional council.

BBC noted that the vote represents the biggest social reform legislation in France since the death penalty was removed more than 30 years ago.

Opponents assert that homosexual couples in France already enjoy the right to civil partnerships and that providing them with marriage rights undermines the institution.

Supporters of gay rights claim that in the run-up to the vote, a number of attacks on gays had been reported.

Check out this map of all the countries in the world that currently recognize same-sex marriages. Click on any country colored in pink to see when same-sex marriage was legalized there. Countries in blue recognize same-sex marriage only in certain regions.