23/04/2013 14:23 BST

French Gay Marriage Bill Approved By France's Parliament

Gay marriage has been legalised by the French parliament on Tuesday after weeks of divisive national debate on the issue.

The Socialist-majority assembly passed the measure by a large margin of 331-225.

Despite large and vocal public protests against same-sex marriage, polls suggest 55-60% of the public are in favour, reports the BBC.

Supporters celebrate after the result was announced

There had been concerns the vote would be marred by violence and extra police had been deployed.

The bill comes just a week after New Zealand opted to legalise gay marriage. France is now the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage.

The first ceremonies could happen as early as June.

Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, said: "We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they'll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families," reports AP.

Justice Minister, Christiane Taubira, center, is congratulated by government members

The bill had been passed by the French Senate earlier this month paving the way for its enshrinement into law.

The bill has exposed deep divides in French society. Those on the right have found gay marriage an effective rallying point to protest against Francois Hollande's socialist government.

Hollande had made the bill his flagship policy.

The increased attention on the passage of the bill has coincided with an increase in physical and verbal attacks against homosexuals and gay bars.

Anti-gay marriage protestors made their feelings clear on Sunday

Elizabeth Ronzier, head of SOS homophobie, said there had been a 30% rise in reports of homophobic and transphobic assaults last year compared to 2011.

"And in the two months to the end of February this year, we received the same amount of testimonies that we would normally get over a period of six months," she said.

The shocking photo, Wilfred de Bruijn, who suffered a horrific homophobic attack in Paris, has been used as an emblem for gay rights in France and has come to symbolise the end to five months of bitterly divisive protests.

The anti-gay marriage opposition, supported by the Catholic Church, has already staged marches in the French capital.

During the Senate debate, UMP Senator Charles Revet said: "Marriage is between a man and a woman with a view to procreation. Two men or two women will never be able to have children"

Protestors demonstrate against the bill last Sunday

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Paris on Sunday in a last ditch attempt to stop the bill.

The protests have been much more violent than any thing seen in the UK over the same issue.

Paul Ackermann of France's Le Huffington Post, said: "Protests against gay marriage have been way more violent in France than in the UK. And it's not only old people that walk the streets.

"Young Catholics, right-wing voters and conservative families found in this event the opportunity to protest against the socialist government in general.

"How can we explain the difference between the UK and France? Frankly, it's hard to say. Maybe France has a long(er) history of protesting on any kind of subject.

"Although right wing voters are not used to protesting in the streets. Maybe the violence of our protesters is linked to François Hollande's historical unpopularity."

In January over a quarter of a million people took to the streets of Paris to march against the bill.

Slogans that had been officially approved for the march included "marriagophile, not homophobe," "all born of a father and mother" and "paternity, maternity, equality", parodying the country's national motto.

Former French minister, Laurent Wauquiez, said: "There are many people who are worried about this law.

"Do we have to destroy the family and the place of children in it? We must pay attention to the place of children."