Is French really the language of love?
Not if you happen to believe in marriage equality.
They traveled from all over France and gathered near the Eiffel Tower, chanting and waving flags and posters.
They presumably do not agree with President Obama, who in his second inaugural speech on January 21 declared: “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
This is not exactly the image of France as a country of tolerance in matters of the heart: just take the President himself. François Hollande had four children with his partner of many years, fellow Socialist politician Segolene Royal; that relationship ended in 2007, and his current partner is Valerie Trierweiler, a journalist. The President and his First Lady are not married. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.?
So why the roadblock to marriage equality?
In France, a law legalizing civil unions was introduced in 1999. The PACS (pacte civil de solidarité) can be entered into by gay or straight couples and confers many but not all of the rights of marriage.
Extending the right to marry and adopt to same-sex couples was one of President Francois Hollande’s electoral pledges in campaigning last year.
After his win, the Cabinet approved a draft bill that is expected to go before the National Assembly and Senate soon. It is likely to be voted on in February or March. If passed, it would mark the biggest step forward for French gay rights advocates in more than a decade.
Understandably, the fierce opposition to the same-sex marriage plan has taken President Hollande by surprise. After all, other European countries such as Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark have given easy passage to same-sex marriage bills. In the U.S., nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized same-sex marriage.
What’s going on in France?
In traditionally Catholic France, only a minority of citizens attend church regularly. But Catholic Church leaders have found a voice on this issue, as well as allies among some Muslims, evangelicals, far-right politicians and some gays opposed to the measure. It has united groups that have often been at odds.
The plan faces stiff opposition from the Roman Catholic Church and social conservatives.
Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, voiced his opposition at a meeting of French bishops in Lourdes last year.
Opening up marriage to same-sex couples “would be a transformation of marriage that would affect everyone,” he said.
The main issue appears to revolve around children: even when they support same-sex civil unions, those protestors in Paris declaimed loudly that same-sex couples should not have the right to adopt or conceive children.
As AP reports, Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s veteran couturier, has also weighed in on the issue by sending two models down a catwalk wearing couture bridal gowns. At Paris’ Grand Palais fashion show on January 22, his two females models walked forward holding hands.
The Socialist Party controls Parliament, and therefore could probably ensure that same-sex marriage becomes law. However, the plan’s opponents want a referendum; just like the opponents of gay marriage in the U.S., they are demanding a popular vote on this issue.
What do you think?
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Photo Credit: Hugo Passarello Luna