Hundreds of thousands of opponents of the French
government's plans to legalize gay marriage and adoption marched
Sunday through Paris, in the biggest demonstration of President
Francois Hollande's eight-month presidency.
The collective of 34 associations behind the protest said 800,000 people had answered their call to defend the traditional definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The police estimated the turnout at 340,000.
Protesters bearing placards with slogans such as "Made in a mammy and daddy" and "There are no eggs in testicles" continued to arrive into the evening for a rally at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, after marching along one of three routes through the city.
The mood of the rally was good-natured, with marshals policing the crowd to ensure that no homophobic slogans were being displayed.
"A child needs points of reference," Blandine Henon, a mother of four, whose face was painted with blue and pink symbols of a man and a woman, told dpa. "When my children see children with two mothers they ask 'who is their daddy'."
The last demonstration of this size in France was in May 2002, after far right National Front (FN) politician Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the runoff of presidential elections against Jacques Chirac.
The FN was represented in Sunday's march, as was the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement, whose leader Jean-Francois Cope led one of the marches.
Hollande promised during campaigning last year to follow the lead of the Netherlands, Spain and several other European countries by giving gays and lesbians full marriage rights.
But his "marriage for all" bill, which gives gay couples the same adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexuals, has encountered stronger-than-expected opposition, particularly in rural areas.
Polls show a majority of the French supporting gay marriage but opposed to gay adoptions.
The Catholic Church has been at the vanguard of opposition to the bill. Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois briefly met with a group of protesters Sunday to show his support.
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