“The vote on this article marks a victory in the fight against homophobia, and for tolerance and democracy,” said François Rebsamen, head of the Socialist group in the Senate, in a statement on Tuesday.
The article was adopted by a majority of 179 to 157, following 10 hours of debate on the floor of the Senate. Five senators from the centre-right opposition UMP defected from their party and voted in favour of the article.
Radicals senators, from the RDSE (European Democratic and Social Rally), had one vote against the article, and four abstentions. The remainder of the left in the Senate were united in voting in favour.
Despite the efforts of gay marriage opponents in the chamber, the article was also passed ‘conforme’— that is, without any modifications, or amendments, and on the first vote, which means it will not have to go back to the lower house.
While Tuesday night’s vote does not formally cement gay marriage in French law, the Senate would now have to reject the entire bill, to prevent it becoming definitive, however that now appears unlikely.
In a statement after the successful vote, Rebsamen added: “The adoption of this article by a united Senate majority, puts an end to discrimination resulting from the sexual choices of our citizens.”
It is still expected to be weeks before the Senate holds a crucial vote on the whole bill, with other articles set to be discussed along with all their proposed amendments.
France's highest court the Constitutional Council, which has the power to reject legislation if it is against France's constitution, has already said it would accept what the legislature decides.
The Senate vote comes as a survey published by BFMTV on April 4th found 53% of the French people are in favour of legalizing gay marriage, but 56% are opposed to same-sex adoption.
France’s anti-gay marriage movement has become increasingly angry and extremist in recent weeks and has seen more radical splinter groups emerge from the more moderate, Manif Pour Tous organisation, led by French comic Frigide Barjot.
Earlier this week, the savage beating of a gay couple in Paris led to claims by gay rights groups that gay marriage opponents were responsible for a purported rise in homophobic incidents.
Last weekend,the annual Inter LGBT fair, held in the famous Marais district of the capital's fourth arrondissement was targeted by vandals, who are opposing gay-marriage.
Also last month, Socialist deputy Erwann Binet had to be evacuated under police protection from a public debate at a university in the Paris suburb of Yvelines.
On February 12th, after ten days of occasionally fraught debate, and some very late nights, deputies in France’s Assemblée Nationale adopted the bill by 329 votes to 229, comfortably surpassing the 280 required majority.
France would become the world’s 12th country to legalize same-sex marriage if the bill is passed by the Senate.