France’s prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament today that gay couples will be permitted to marry and adopt children in 2013.

Mr Ayrault was making a keynote speech setting out the socialist government’s five-year political and social agenda.

“In the first half of 2013, the right to marriage and adoption will be open to all couples, without discrimination,” he said.

“Our society is evolving, lifestyles and mentalities are changing. The government will respond to that.”

New president Francois Hollande’s presidential election manifesto pledged: “I will open the right to marriage and adoption to homosexual couples.”

While gay and straight French couples can currently enter Civil Solidarity Pacts, PACS, only straight couples can marry.

Although PACS offer many legal protections, they do not give couples the right to joint adoption or artificial insemination.

Polls have found that most French people support equal marriage and adoption by gay couples.