Police said an estimated 150,000 same-sex marriage opponents took part in the protest in the French capital. La Manif Pour Tous, the group that led the campaign against the same-sex marriage law, said in a press release the march drew one million people.
French television reported authorities arrested 231 people who clashed with police at the end of the march.
“Despite all of the government’s attempts to intimidate, this protest will go down in history as an immense success,” La Manif Pour Tous said. “It was the ‘great shock of hope’ that France needs.”
President François Hollande on May 18 signed his country’s same-sex marriage bill into law after the French Constitutional Council rejected a challenge to it. The measure received final approval in the French National Assembly last month amid growing concerns the rhetoric against it had sparked a spate of anti-gay attacks across the country.
Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau of Montpellier are expected to become the first gay couple to tie the knot in France on Wednesday.
“Loving and committed gay and lesbian couples should be able to get married no matter who they are or where they live,” Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, a group that rallied support for the French same-sex marriage law. “We are so happy that France has made the world a freer and more beautiful place for gays and lesbians.”
Neighboring Belgium and Spain are among countries in which gays and lesbians can legally marry.
Brazil’s National Council of Justice on May 14 ruled registrars cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Colombian Senate last month overwhelmingly rejected a same-sex marriage bill. Gays and lesbians will be able to legally register their relationships in the South American country on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act upon a 2011 ruling from the nation’s highest court that mandated them to pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to same-sex couples.
The British House of Lords next month is slated to debate a measure that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in England and Wales.