Writing for PinkNews, French student David Browne says France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira is now synonymous with the debate on gay rights in the country.

Meet Christiane Taubira, a 61-year-old socialist politician from French Guyana. Perhaps not the most obvious candidate to pioneer France’s LGBT rights movement, but in recent months she has been revered by France’s gay community and the left for her passion, humility and sincerity, as well as pushing France’s gay rights movement to the forefront of issues.

Christiane Taubira studied Economics at Paris’ Panthéon-Assas university before becoming an economics teacher. For many years she was a militant independence supporter, advocating Guyana’s secession from France but has since moved away from this ideology.

In 2002 she was the presidential candidate for the ‘Radical Party of the Left’, under the programme “Equal opportunities for everyone’” She ended up in 13th place after the first round of voting.

Taubira, who is currently France’s Justice minister and former deputy for French Guyana in the National Assembly, introduced the bills aimed at legalising same-sex marriage and giving adoption rights to LGBT couples earlier this year.

Christiane Taubira opened the debate with a heartfelt speech which also referred to France’s principles as a free and equal nation, earning her a standing ovation from her fellow deputies.

“What are gay couples’ marriages going to do to heterosexual couples’ marriages? Nothing”, she stated. “We are talking about the hypocrisy of those who to refuse to recognise homosexual families and the selfishness of those who believe that an institution of the Republic should be reserved for one type of citizen.”

“We are happy and proud to have taken this first step,” she announced. “We are going to establish the freedom for everyone to choose his or her partner for a future together. Taubira has become synonymous with the debate on gay rights in France, appearing on several TV programmes denouncing opposition calls for a referendum and reaffirming that the words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ will not be removed from France’s civil code.

Taubira won over many French people earlier this month when she broke into uncontrollable laughter after hearing the comments of another deputy during a debate about the Marriage Pour Tous (for all) Bill, sparking many French people to comment on her humility. Her ‘fou rire’ (crazy laugh) became an internet sensation. Her passion to defend the rights of same-sex couples has meant that Christiane Taubira has become an enemy of the right; in particular of France’s opposition party UMP, with many of its deputies calling on her to resign.

France approved the same-sex marriage bill earlier this month in the National Assembly with 329 votes to 229. The bill is now set to be voted on by France’s senate in the coming months.

The same-sex marriage debate has divided France recently, with hundreds of thousands of people demonstrating both for and against  President Francois Hollande’s plans. Nevertheless, an Ifop poll from January showed that 63% of French people supported plans to legalise same-sex marriage.