French lawmakers have made gay marriage legal Tuesday, making the Western European country the 14th nation in the world and ninth in Europe to pass such a measure.
The National Assembly of France approved the same-sex marriage bill -- which also allows couples adoption rights -- by a vote of 331-225 after hearing several impassioned speeches for and against the controversial bill, which has been at the center of debate in France for months now.
“I hope people across the country will celebrate this moment,” said Martin Gaillard, a 31-year-old gay marriage advocate who was nervous leading up to the assembly’s vote. “This remains a joyous day.”
President Francois Hollande -- who expressed his support for marriage equality last year while campaigning -- will now have to sign the bill before it becomes law.
This passage comes a week after New Zealand became the 13th nation to legalize gay marriage and first in the Asia-Pacific region where the bill was widely supported and celebrated.
Uruguay legalized gay marriage a week before New Zealand as well.
Hours before the vote, thousands of police gathered outside the National Assembly building, preparing for protesters on the streets who started forming on Sunday and have vowed to carry on their fight, according to CNN.
Assembly President Claude Bartelone proclaimed, “Only those who love democracy are here.”
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said that the first weddings could come as early as June.
“We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful,” Taubira said. “And that they'll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families.”