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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 3
Égalité, non! - French conservatives protest same-sex marriage
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Égalité, non! - French conservatives protest same-sex marriage

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

On January 13, an estimated 340,000 people marched in Paris to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage in France, in one of the most massive protests in the country's recent history. Many participated as families - husbands and wives, with children in tow. The three-mile march began at three different points around the city, with the marchers converging on the Eiffel Tower for a rally.

'This law is going to lead to a change of civilization that we don't want,' said Philippe Javaloyes, a literature teacher who bused in with 300 people from Franche Comte, a province southeast of Île-de-France, the province where Paris is located. 'We have nothing against different ways of living, but we think that a child must grow up with a mother and a father.'

The marchers were protesting French President François Hollande's plan to legalize same-sex marriage, adoption, and conception. Hollande, who took office on May 15, 2012, succeeded the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy, and promised during his campaign to bring about marriage equality.

POLLS: SUPPORT FALLING
An August 2012 poll found that 65% of French were in favor of same-sex marriage and 53% supported adoption rights for same-sex couples. Unsurprisingly, a divide appears to exist between rural and urban areas. However, public opposition by religious leaders in recent months seems to have swayed the French population a great deal. According to a survey released on the day of the protest, only 52% now support legalization of same-sex marriage - a huge difference from the August poll.

Civil unions have been legal in the country since 1999, but are just as popular among heterosexuals as same-sex couples. Unlike in the United States, many straight, secular French couples prefer civil unions to traditional marriage, which is seen as religion-oriented.

ADOPTION THE MAIN ISSUE
The civil union law in France as it stands, however, has no provisions for adoption or assisted conception for same-sex couples, which many say is at the heart of the debate - thus the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.

Harlem Désir, the leader of Hollande's Socialist Party, which has a majority in Parliament, said that while he is grateful for the people's right to protest, Sunday's event would not affect the bill's progress. The bill is expected to be introduced and put to a vote by the end of the month.

'The right to protest is protected in our country, but the Socialists are determined to give the legal right to marry and adopt to all those who love each other,' said Désir. 'This is the first time in decades in our country that the right and the extreme right are coming into the streets together to deny new rights to the French.'

If Parliament approves the bill, France would become the 12th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, and the largest so far in terms of economic and diplomatic influence.

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