"So it's not the end of the story yet," said Herve Mariton, a member of the main opposition UMP party. "We still have arguments to make and we want to convince people that it is not a good project."
The government didn't get all it wanted. The Socialists last month backed off plans to link the gay marriage measure to relaxed restrictions on fertility treatments, after catching political heat for its stance on assisted reproduction. The issue is expected to come up in a separate bill later this year.
Hollande made legalizing gay marriage one of the planks in his 60-point program on the way to winning the presidency in May over conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. But Hollande's popularity has fallen along with France's lackluster economic performance, and his foes on the right appear to sense he might be vulnerable on a high-profile social issue.
The latest polls suggest a narrow majority of French support gay marriage, but that has declined from about two-thirds support in August. In mid-January, at least 340,000 people swarmed on the Eiffel Tower to protest the plan to legalize gay marriage, according to police estimates. Two weeks later, about 125,000 proponents of the bill marched in the capital.
French civil unions, allowed since 1999, are at least as popular among heterosexuals as among gay and lesbian couples. But that law has no provisions for adoption or assisted reproduction.
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