France has moved a step closer to becoming one of about 12 countries to legalize same-sex marriage.
The French parliament, on Saturday, overwhelmingly approved a key article of a reform bill that would allow same-sex marriages and also allow gay couples to adopt children.
The measure approved by the National Assembly defines marriage as an agreement between two people, rather than between a man and a woman.
The assembly will now consider hundreds of amendments that have been presented for the reform bill. The debate is expected to last several weeks.
President Francois Hollande made same-sex marriage reform a key part of his election campaign. However, the issue has sparked massive demonstrations by both opponents and supporters.
Opinion polls indicate a majority of French citizens support the legalization of same-sex marriages, while a smaller percentage approve of gay adoptions.