French rallies back Hollande's plan to legalise gay marriage, adoption
Tens of thousands turn out at demonstrations across France in support of proposed law
Agence France-Presse in Paris
Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out in France to show support for the government's plans to legalise gay marriage and adoption.
Organisers said 150,000 people gathered in Paris at Bastille Square on Sunday for the "demonstration for equality". Police said 60,000 took part.
Another rally has been called for January 27, two days before the French legislature is to debate the gay marriage bill.
Several elected officials wearing their tri-coloured sashes could be seen alongside parents pushing strollers and children with multicoloured balloons at Sunday's event. Carrying banners reading "Equal rights are not a threat" and "The right for all to choose", demonstrators urged the government to push ahead with the reform.
"I think marriage is good for everyone," said 10-year-old Arthur, at the rally with his eight-year-old sister Lola and their two mothers, one of whom, Christelle, said it was unfortunate the debate over gay marriage had turned ugly in recent months.
"For the first time our children have experienced homophobia that shocked them," she said, and this only "makes me want to fight even harder for gay marriage".
Several thousand people rallied in the southwestern city of Toulouse for equal rights for gays, and rallies drawing thousands were held in other cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Nantes, on Saturday to back the reform.
The parliament is to debate the government-backed "marriage-for-all" bill early next year.
With President Francois Hollande's Socialists holding a strong majority, the bill is expected to pass despite vehement opposition from the right and religious groups.
Mass opposition marches took place across the country last month to denounce the bill, and opponents, including some prominent church leaders, have said gay marriage will open the door to polygamy and incest.
Another protest against the bill has been called for January 13.
A nationwide poll by the firm IFOP released on Saturday showed 60 per cent of respondents in favour of legalising gay marriage and 46 per cent backing adoptions by same-sex couples.
Police at a rally in Toulouse by anti-gay protesters on November 17 used tear gas to separate them from demonstrators supporting same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile in Vatican City on Sunday, gay rights campaigners held a small protest near St Peter's Square during Pope Benedict's weekly prayers after the pontiff said last week that legalising gay marriage threatened the institution of marriage.
The protesters were blocked from entering St Peter's Square, which was packed with tens of thousands of faithful to hear the pope recite the Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent.