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France Battles Over Gays’ Status

November 7, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Thousands of people opposed to the leftist government’s proposal to give legal status to homosexual and other unmarried couples marched through Paris on Saturday, while opposition lawmakers waged a parliamentary battle to kill the bill.

Legislative supporters hope to adopt the measure on Tuesday, but the political right has engaged in lengthy speeches and offered more than 1,000 amendments in effort to delay action.

A planned five-hour speech Saturday was cut short by Speaker Laurent Fabius after just three hours.

Critics have equated the bill with gay marriage and say they fear it could open the door to adoptions by homosexual couples.

Meanwhile, opponents made themselves heard in the streets where thousands of people from around France marched against the bill. Police put the number of protesters at just over 7,000, while organizers said there were 130,000.

The proposal was initially scuttled by rightist politicians Oct. 9. The government of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has since revised the bill.

The new bill would allow two unrelated people to conclude a union that would, among other things, allow them to file joint tax returns, gain inheritance benefits, and take part in the other’s social security coverage.

Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou on Friday called for an end to ``fantasies″ over the legislation. ``The real debate,″ she said, ``is that we must be able to recognize the rights of people who live together without being married, be they homosexual or heterosexual.″

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