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Protests after gay marriage approved

Final vote in National Assembly could see the first gay marriages celebrated as early as June

PROTESTORS clashed with riot police on the streets of Paris last night after the National Assembly gave its final seal of approval to a bill legalising same-sex marraige and adoption.

The vote - 331 for and 225 against - makes France the most populous country in the world to allow gay marriage and the 14th in the world to do so. The first weddings could be seen as early as June.

Opponents are hoping to delay the law by challenging it in the conseil constitutionnel, but the government is confident that the appeal will be dismissed.

As news of the approval broke, several thousand opponents of the law gathered a few hundred metres from the National Assembly, on the Esplanade des Invalides and threw projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.

Violent protests have been a frequent sight in Paris and other French cities over the past six months - and the president of the National Assembly received a threatening letter with gunpowder in the post.

UMP leader Jean-François Copé has called for a demonstration on May 26 for opponents to voice their "strong disapproval" to the government.

Supporters of the bill gathered outside Paris city hall to celebrate the news. The city's mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was among those gathered there.

Recent opinion polls suggest a majority of people in France support gay marriage, but the issue of same-sex adoption has been more divisive.

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