(AP) France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate that has exposed deep social conservatism in the nation’s heartland and triggered huge protests in Paris from both sides of the divide. Legions of officers with water cannon braced outside the National Assembly for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering right.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.

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