France could take another step closer to legalising marriage equality, as its National Assembly is set to vote on a measure to legalise it this afternoon.

The French National Assembly, the lower house of France’s Parliament voted in favour of making same-sex marriage legal last week. 

If the bill is approved today, as it is expected to be by the National Assembly, it will go before the Senate in order to become law.

Last week’s vote was 249 in favour with 97 deputies voting against. The majority of the support for the bill came from the left, with many centrist and conservative deputies from the UMP voting against making marriage equal.

The vote follows months of debate and controversy over the issue of equal marriage and gay adoption. Further votes on the issue will continue until the 12th February 2013.

In what was perceived as an attempt to appease opponents to the bill, the government dropped medically assisted reproduction for lesbian couples, from the country’s upcoming bill to legalise marriage equality.

It also dropped other areas of the bill, which redefined marriage as “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex”.

Polls show a majority of French voters support marriage equality, but it has divided the country’s left and right, with lawmakers from the conservative UMP denouncing the measure.

An Ifop poll last Saturday showed a rise in support for equal marriage, which had risen to 63%.

Starting late in 2012, there have been several large-scale demonstrations both for and against equal marriage.

On Sunday, as many as a quarter of a million people gathered in the French cities of Paris and Lyon to support plans to introduce same-sex marriage equality.

The previous week, a ‘March for All’ attracted an estimated 340,000 to 800,000 people to the Champs-de-Mars to oppose marriage equality. The organisers were handed a €100,000 bill to clean up the area by the city’s gay mayor.

In November, thousands of pro-equality demonstrators turned up to rally at the National Assembly in Paris, to show support for equal marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

On 7 November 2012, French President Francois Hollande’s government approved the bill to legalise equal marriage and allow gay couples to adopt.  

When he approved the bill, the same day that three US states – MaineMaryland and Washington – legalised equal marriage, President Hollande told his cabinet that it would mean “progress not only for individuals but for the whole of society”.

The President had previously conceded that the religious opponents of his equal marriage plans were proving to be “tough” to deal with.

Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of the French President, showed her support for moves to make marriage equal by announcing that she will be a witness at one of the first same-sex marriages.

President Hollande made an election campaign pledge to extend full marriage rights to gay couples.

In the UK, the the Public Bill Committee of the House of Commons – made up of MPs who both have spoken against and in favour of LGBT equality – begins the task of scrutinising the government’s equal marriage bill for England and Wales this afternoon.