President Francois Hollande, who made the issue a key part of his electoral platform, told a cabinet meeting the move was “not only a step forward for some but for all of society,” government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said.
The proposed legislation “resolutely takes into account the greater interest of the child,” he said, Vallaud-Belkacem added.
“This is an important step towards the equality of rights,” said Minister of Family Affairs Dominique Bertinnoti.
Bertinnoti rejected criticism that the move would “destroy” the family, saying: “On the contrary it is a legal protection.”
It now has to be voted through parliament before becoming law: Hollande has promised that it will be on the statute books by mid-2013.
Some in the government also want the final law to include state funding for artificial insemination for gay couples.
“This is a great advance and very important for the legal protection of gay families,” said Stephanie, a 41-year-old member of an association of gay and lesbian parents.
The draft law, a liberal cornerstone of the election manifesto that brought Hollande to power in May has come under fire in a country that is officially secular but predominantly Catholic.