Francois Hollande has been accused of caving in to homophobes after shelving legislation that would have legalised medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples.
Supporters of the reforms denounced the French president and his Socialist government as “political cowards” after the announcement late on Monday that the proposed bill would not be introduced this year as promised.
The Guardian reports conservatives in France were heralding a victory.
Ministers said the bill had not been dropped but only postponed until 2015 in the hope the atmosphere by then would be “more calm”.
Women’s rights minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, suggested the decision had been forced by the “hysteria” surrounding the proposed bill. She said the government needed more time to “develop the family law project and create more calm conditions for the necessary consultation”.
Organisers of the homophobic protest group Manif pour Tous (Demo for All), which brought more than 100,000 people on to city streets on Sunday in defence of what it described as the traditional family, claimed a victory after the announcement.
However, LGBT campaigners were appalled at the move.
Anne-Cécile Mailfert, of Osez le Féminisme (Dare to be Feminist), said: “The government is afraid of reactionaries and in giving in to them they’ve let them win.
“It’s a sign of cowardliness. People voted for the left because of its social projects.” She said the government’s retreat would “reinforce the enemies of social progress”.
President Hollande’s government enraged conservatives by pushing through equal marriage last year. Debate over the law sparked intense and at times violent opposition and criticism from the powerful Catholic Church.
It emerged on Tuesday that Vincent Boileau-Autinone, who along with his partner was the first gay couple to marry in France, has been sent death threats on Twitter after speaking out against the demonstrators on Sunday.