France has named October 31 as the date when a draft law authorising equal marriage will be approved by government ministers.

Despite widespread political and religious opposition, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault insisted there would be no backtracking on a manifesto promise by President Francois Hollande in an interview with AFP.

More than 1,200 French mayors and deputy mayors have signed a petition opposing the government’s plans, with many of them warning they will not preside over same-sex ceremonies.

However, this represents less than one percent of the total number of mayors and deputy mayors in France.

Last week, Francois Lebel, a district mayor in Paris who had previously married former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni, said that he would not conduct marriages for same-sex couples and suggested the measure could open the door to the approval of polygamous or incestuous unions.

Prime Minister Ayrault said the draft legislation will include provision for married gay couples to adopt children but the right will not be immediately extended to unmarried gay couples.

Some French campaigners have urged that access to fertility treatment for same-sex couples should also be included in the legislation.

However, Mr Ayrault said this would be addressed at a later stage.

President Hollande has promised that the legislation will be on the statute books by mid-2013 and there is sufficient cross party support to ensure the government will be able to push it through on schedule.