The mainstream media largely ignored the marches despite tens of thousands of people turning out in some of the cities.
Police said 80,000 people took to the streets of the French capital; the march organisers, La Manif Pour Tous (Protest for Everyone), estimated the crowd to be far higher and closer to half a million. At least 20,000 are reported to have marched in Lyon.
The French protesters are opposed to a raft of policies under President Francois Hollande including last year's law allowing same-sex 'marriage', legislation in favour of medically assisted procreation techniques for lesbian couples and in vitro fertilization, and an experimental school program aimed at combatting gender stereotypes.
Beyond France, the protesters were also marching against the Lunacek report on equality with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity. The report calls for a new EU action plan to combat homophobia, and demanding that lesbian and gay rights should now be considered human rights. It also calls on the European Commission to promote "equality and non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity throughout its youth and education programmes."
The movement against such policies has quickly grown across Europe since La Manif Pour Tous held its first march in January 2013 an event which also drew vast crowds.
The organisation now has an office in Rome, and yesterday's protest in Rome's Piazza Farnese coincidentally took place on the same day as Italy's' Day for Life (during his Angelus address yesterday, Pope Francis reminded those present of the day which had the theme 'Generating the Future' and encouraged those committed to the defence of life from its conception to its natural end).
At the Rome rally, Jacopo Coghe, director of La Manif Pour Tous Italia, said they had gathered to affirm that "we will not be instruments of violence and destruction".
"We will defend the family, paying in person if necessary," he said, adding that it filled him with "pride and courage" to see so many young people and families present. "This is the only possible future for Italy and France," he said.
"The family is being targeted within the European Parliament, where laws that do not take into account the reality are being approved," he continued. "So I would like to tell MEPs in a loud voice that Italy also defends the family and marriage between a man and a woman and strongly rejects the Lunacek plan."
He added: "We Italians, also moved by your example and by your courage, are mobilizing to defend these values, we continue to support each other in this line of defense, because only the union between a man and a woman can form a stable construct that is the family, the place par excellence of solidarity and acceptance."
Drawing on the enthusiasm of the protests, Coghe said he had "bags of hope for the future of Europe."