French television reported that police said 125,000 people took part in the protest, while organizers placed the figure around 400,000.
Guillaume Bonnet of All Out, which uses social media and other online forums to advance LGBT rights, told the Washington Blade from Paris after he marched with his cousin and one of his friends that a lot of straight people took part in the demonstration.
“It was very emotional,” he said. “For them it’s about freedom, equality and family values.”
The protest took place two days before French lawmakers are scheduled to begin debating the proposal.
A demonstration in support of the measure last month drew more than 50,000 people to the French capital. More than 350,000 people took part in a march against the same-sex marriage and adoption bill in Paris on Jan. 13.
A poll the website Atlantico.fr released on Saturday found 63 percent of French people support same-sex marriage, compared to 60 percent who said they bac the issue last month. Forty-nine percent of respondents also support adoption rights for gays and lesbians, compared to 46 percent in December.
“To mobilize so many people just before the discussion of [the proposal,] which is supposed to pass anyway is a great success,” Charles Roncier, a gay blogger who is an assistant editor-in-chief for the website VIH.org, told the Blade.
Neighboring Spain and Belgium are among the European countries that allow same-sex couples to marry. The British House of Commons on Feb. 5 is scheduled to debate a bill that would allow nuptials for gays and lesbians in England and Wales, while Scottish lawmakers are also expected to vote on a similar measure later this year.
Polish legislators on Friday struck down three proposals that would have allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.
Brian Ellner, who directed the Human Rights Campaign’s efforts in support of New York’s same-sex marriage bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in June 2011, also took part in the latest march. He told the Blade from Paris that he feels nuptials for gays and lesbians in France would “have a significant impact across Europe.”
“Just as our New York win unleashed momentum across the United States, France is a cultural capital of Europe and historically has led on issues important to civil society,” he said.
Ellner also noted growing public support for the issue in the country, while All Out continues to collect signatures in support of the same-sex marriage and adoption measure. Bonnet said the group hopes to submit 200,000 of them to French lawmakers and ministers.
“It is giving a voice to that huge silent majority, the 60 percent of French people who are for equality and that we don’t really hear about in the debate,” he said.