The French government has confirmed plans to introduce equal marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told La Croix newspaper that the new law “will extend to members of the same sex the current arrangements of marriage”.

She told the Catholic daily paper that a draft bill was due to be presented to the cabinet at the end of October.

France is one of the few Western European countries that does not allow gay couples to adopt children.

European countries that do offer gay adoption include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

‘We will open adoption to homosexual couples,’ Ms Taubira said. “They will be able to adopt children either as individuals or as a couple.”

Same-sex couples will also be able to become legal guardians of their partner’s biological child. But it was stressed that the law would not extend to state funded artificial insemination for lesbians.

“Who is to say that a heterosexual couple will bring a child up better than a homosexual couple, that they will guarantee the best conditions for the child’s development?” Ms Taubira asked.

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

But the French Catholic Church has shown its opposition to the government’s plans.

The leader of France’s Christian Democratic Party, Christine Boutin, told radio station Europe 1 that the “weighty subject” should be put to a referendum.

But the church’s stance does not reflect the mood of the country.

Opinion polls suggest that two-thirds of the French people support equal marriage.