This is the image from anti-gay marriage protests in France that many will remember above all others: two young woman kissing in the middle of angry demonstrators.

The picture, taken by AFP photographer Gérard Julien, went viral on social media and has all the ingredients to become a symbolic image of the movement in favor of marriage equality.

On Tuesday, demonstrators gathered in 75 French cities to oppose the bill which would allow gay marriage and adoption. The picture was shot during the rally in the city of Marseille and as the two women are seen kissing in the forefront, faces of shocked protesters can be seen in the background.

Interviewed by French gay magazine Têtu the two young women explained they are both straight, but wanted to draw attention to the issue with a pure and simple gesture of solidarity.

According to l’AFP the picture has been retweeted over 1,500 in a few hours and 2,500 times on Wednesday morning.

The photo has been shared over 5,000 times and received 9,000 likes on the Facebook page of HuffPost France. It was also one of the most commented topics on Reddit.

The comments on the Facebook page of HuffPost France offer some insight into why the picture went viral.

“To respond to all those homophobes with a gesture of love. Nothing is more beautiful!” a reader wrote.

“Love is stronger than hate,” stated another user.

Romain Pigenel, responsible for the Internet division of the presidential palace, also analysed the success of the photos on his blog:

“This snapshot brings out a simple and efficient mechanism: the one of the opposition between reason and emotion, between the power of the image and the complexity of the slogan. The protesters are holding signs and screaming claims that cannot exist, to make sense, in the instantaneity of the photograph.”

Gérard Julien, the photographer, explains on the AFP blog, “This picture, it’s like the story of the biter bit, a reversal of symbolism without their knowing it. Everyone has been surprised by this shot. The protesters were in shock!”

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