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Following weeks of mass demonstrations both for and against legalising gay marriage and adoptions, the French parliament has started debating the proposed legislation.

The lawmakers, like the public, are sharply divided.

Justice Minister Christine Taubira got straight to perhaps the most polarising issue:

“Homosexual couples will have the same adoption rights as heterosexual couples,” Taubira said.

Her statement was met with energetic applause by many of her colleagues and stony silence from others.

Civil unions exist under French law, but legalising same-sex marriages and adoptions, a campaign promise of President François Hollande, has sparked fierce protests.

Thousands have taken to the streets to protest against it, while huge numbers have also taken to the streets to support it.

Organisers estimated that 400,000 people attended a Paris rally on Sunday in favour of legalising gay marriage.

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