A minister for France's new Socialist government announced on Friday that France will legalize same-sex marriage by the end of next year. Dominique Bertinotti [official profile, in French], the junior minister for families, proclaimed that within a year, same-sex couples [JURIST news archive] in France will be granted all the same legal rights as heterosexual couples [Reuters report], including the right to marry and the right to adopt children. Bertinotti also declared [AFP report, in French] that all government departments, officials and teachers will be "sensitized" on equality and trained to combat homophobia. France currently allows for same-sex civil unions but does not grant same-sex couples full marriage status. Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden are the only European nations that currently allow same-sex couples to marry.
Same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue in France. Earlier in June, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Aryault announced [JURIST report] that laws legalizing marriage and adoptions for same-sex couples will be introduced. Last year the Constitutional Council [official website, in French] ruled [JURIST report] that the country's same-sex marriage ban does not violate the constitution. The council emphasized it may only interpret existing laws under the constitution, but that the legislature has the power to make new laws allowing gay marriage. The Court of Cassation [official website, in French], the country's highest court of appeals, ordered the Constitutional Council in November 2010 to rule on the constitutionality [JURIST report] of the law. The order was made after a gay French couple challenged the ban in a Reims court, saying it limited their personal freedoms.