France a step closer to legalizing gay marriage

France's National Assembly has approved a key article of a controversial bill that would legalize gay marriage.

National Assembly approves key article of controversial bill to legalize same-sex marriage

Women pose during a demonstration for the government project to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption for same-sex couples in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (Benjamin Girette/Associated Press)

France's National Assembly has approved a key article of a controversial bill that would legalize gay marriage.

The measure, approved by a 249-to-97 vote Saturday, would drop the legal requirement that a marriage in France must be between two people of the opposite sex.

To become law, that measure must now be approved by France's Senate. That is expected to happen since President Francois Hollande favours the change.

However, the legislation also contains a measure that has been more controversial in the parliamentary debate, which began Tuesday.

It would legalize gay adoption, and hundreds of thousands of supporters and opponents of the measure have held protests in Paris.

The parliamentary debate on the gay rights legislation is scheduled to be completed by Feb. 12.