CAIRO - As France's socialist government prepares to have its comfortable majority vote gay marriage into law, thousands of mayors, deputy mayors and other small-town officials across France have risen up to voice their opposition, calling the law a colossal mistake.
These are people from right-wing parties, from left-wing parties, and some are not from any party at all, Franck Meyer, mayor of Sotteville-sous-le-Val near Rouen, told The Washington Post.
Forming a group called Mayors for Childhood, Meyer and other organizers have gathered more than 18,000 signatures from among France's 155,000 mayors and deputy mayors on a petition demanding that a conscience clause be included in the law.
The petition urges adding a clause that allows mayors to refuse to perform gay marriages.
Growing opposition from local officials to the proposed gay marriage reflected a growing anger in the French society.
I've heard no one here in Blerancourt who disagrees with me, Patrick Laplace, the mayor of Blerancourt, a tiny town that lies 75 miles northeast of Paris.
Laplace, a 59-year-old former banking executive, has not taken his stand for political or religious reasons.
He belongs to the Radical Party, a loyal ally of the majority Socialist Party in Parliament.
His opposition, he said, arises from a rational analysis defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman for family and filiation.
The controversy started when the Socialists-led government approved a draft law earlier this month to legalize same-sex marriage in France.
The bill, which will be debated by France's National Assembly in January, would grant gay couples the right to adopt children.
It has invited popular anger in France, with Catholic bishops leading the opposition against the plans.
Protestors took to the streets in 75 cities and towns across France last week against the proposed changes.
France's top Catholic prelate, Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, earlier this month criticized the government for forging ahead with the plans at a time when the country faced urgent economic concerns.
In August, Vingt-Trois launched the Catholic campaign with a national prayer day against same-sex marriage.
Local officials accuse the Socialist government's proposal of largely ignoring political and religious lines.
They have also accused it of adopting a new line that divides Paris, with its trends and politics, from the countless smaller communities around France where most people remain attached to timeless values in a tradition-heavy society with deep Christian roots.
I will exercise one way or another my right to stand aside in order not to proceed with such marriages because it would be a profound change to the Judeo-Christian society to which I belong, said Jean Bizet, a conservative senator and mayor of Teilleul in Normandy.
Same-sex relationship and marriage are totally prohibited in Islam, Christianity and all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin, but considers homosexual intercourse as sinful.
In January, Pope Benedict XVI said that same-sex marriage threatened "the future of humanity itself."
In March, he denounced moves to legalize the same-sex marriage in the United States, where President Barack Obama has since come out in its support.
Catholic Church leaders in England and Scotland have also spoken out against gay marriage this year after Prime Minister David Cameron and the Scottish regional government both announced plans to legalize it.
Passing the law would make France the 12th country around the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
It is already allowed in Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.