The law (Loi n°99-944 du 15 novembre 1999 relative au pacte civil de solidarité ) was voted by the French Parliament in November 1999 following some controversy. While it was pushed by the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in 1998, it was also opposed, mostly by people on the right-wing who support traditionalist family values, such as Christine Boutin and Philippe de Villiers, who argued that PACS and the recognition of homosexual unions would be disastrous for French society. Only one right-wing deputy, Roselyne Bachelot, declared herself in favour of PACS.
The debate is remembered for a few incidents, such as when Christine Boutin spoke for five hours in the French National Assembly, and also at some point waved a Christian Bible in the direction of the speaker of the Assembly — a surprising gesture in a country where laïcité (implying no intervention of religion into political matters) is specified in the Constitution. Christine Boutin also said that "All civilizations that recognized and justified homosexuality as a normal lifestyle met decadence." Anti-PACS opponents also staged a series of street protests, but the turnout, by their own admission, was disappointingly low. At its creation, Jacques Chirac described PACS as "not adapted to the needs of families". However, most initial opponents now widely accept the PACS (including Jacques Chirac, or Christine Boutin, that have publicly changed their mind on the subject, because it is very widely supported by the French opinion and society).
It was to be a marked improvement and alternative over the previous certificat de concubinage notoire, which had minimal rights (and responsibilities) and had been seen as having pejorative overtones. The situation of concubinage only made certain benefits extend to the other partner in a union, and did not settle any issue regarding property, taxes, etc.
Initially, PACS offered the right to file joint income taxes only after 3 years. As of 2005, all PACS couples are required to file joint taxes, in the same manner as married couples. Due to the way that the progressive tax is applied in France, a couple filing joint income taxes, in almost all cases, pays less tax than they would filing separately if one of the partners earns substantially more than the other.
Wealth tax (impôt sur la fortune) was consistently applied to the combined assets of both partners, since the introduction of the PACS in 1999.
In 2004, PACS was described in a report to the Garde des Sceaux (minister for justice) as "a new way of conjugality, answering many needs and inscribed in continuity".
A parliamentary "Report on the Family and the Rights of Children" was released on January 25, 2006. Although the committee recommended increasing some rights given in PACS in areas such as property rights, laws of succession and taxation, it recommended maintaining prohibitions against marriage, adoption, and access to medically-assisted reproduction for same-sex couples. Because of this, left-wing members of the committee rejected the report.
The report also argued that the differences in rights between concubinage, PACS and marriage reflect different levels of commitment and obligations on the part of the couples who enter into them. The committee renewed its support for this tiered system and recommended that the various rights and obligations of each type of union be clearly explained to couples when they register for a PACS, marry, or have a child.
266,000 civil marriages took place in 2004, a decline of 5.9% from 2003. However, the report found that the number of couples getting PACS had increased every year except 2001. There was a 29% increase in PACS between 2001 and 2002 and a 25% increase between 2002 and 2003. For the first 9 months of 2004, 27,000 PACS were signed compared to 22,000 in 2003. The report found that one PACS in 10 had been dissolved (less than divorces for couples married for the same period, for which one marriage in three will be dissolved by divorce or separation after the first 3 years during which most signed PACS are dissolved before becoming more stable than marriages).
A parliamentary report released in January 2006 said a total of around 170,000 PACS had been signed.