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Clashes at French anti-gay marriage protest

Paris riot police fought back crowds who pushed their way onto Paris’ landmark Champs-Élysées Avenue as part of a huge protest against a draft law allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

Hundreds of thousands of people — conservative activists, children, retirees, priests — converged on the capital March 24 in a last-ditch bid to stop the bill, many bused in from the French provinces.

The lower house of France’s parliament approved the bill last month with a large majority, and it’s facing a vote in the Senate next month. Both houses are dominated by French President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party and its allies.

Sustained protests led by opposition conservatives in this traditionally Catholic country have eroded support for the draft law in recent months, and organizers hope the march will weigh on the Senate debate.

Police officers wrangled with youth and then fired tear gas to force them back. Gaining momentum, more and more protesters took side streets to reach the avenue, blocking a key intersection on the route to the president’s Élysée Palace.

Police fired more tear gas but were unable to block the crowds from spilling onto the avenue.

Organizers estimated more than 1.2 million people took part in Sunday’s march, more than in the January protest.

Canada House passes transgender-rights bill

Canada’s House of Commons has passed a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against transgender people.

The bill now goes to the Senate, which is expected to approve it.

The bill is one of the first tests of the Conservative caucus’ resolve on gay and transgender rights in Canada at a time when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has been mounting a strong defense of such rights abroad.

The legislation passed March 20 by a vote of 149-137, with the crucial support of 16 Conservatives, including four cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper opposed the bill.

Paraguay gay couple demand legal recognition

A Paraguayan gay couple is demanding to be recognized as spouses under the law.

Simon Cazal, 30, and Sergio Lopez, 20, got married last year in Argentina, the first place in Latin America to approve gay marriage continentwide.

Paraguay itself has no laws for same-sex marriage or civil unions.

On March 22, the couple asked a judge in the capital of Asuncion to order civil-registry officials to record their marriage.

Cazal says they went first to the judge because local radio has been reporting that civil-registry officials will likely block his attempt to register his marriage to Lopez.

London mayor wins case over anti-gay bus ad ban

Britain’s High Court says the mayor of London acted lawfully when he banned bus ads from a Christian group suggesting that homosexuality can be cured.

A Christian charity had challenged Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision, as chair of London’s transport authority, to ban ads declaring: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it.”

Judge Beverley Lang said March 22 that Transport for London had breached its own guidelines when it approved the ban. But she said this was outweighed by factors against running the ad, which would cause “grave offense” to many people and increase “the risk of prejudice and homophobic attacks.”

The judge gave the charity, Core Issues Trust, permission to appeal. She said the case raised freedom-of-speech issues that were of “fundamental importance.”

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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