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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 1, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 5
French National Assembly debates marriage law
Section One
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French National Assembly debates marriage law

Hundreds of thousands march on both sides

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Debate on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption by Gay and Lesbian couples opened in the French National Assembly on January 29. The debate is expected to last two weeks.

Introducing the bill, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira called it 'an act of equality.'

She later told reporters from the Journal du Dimanche that the law, known as Marriage for All, 'simply gives the same rights to and confers the same duties on homosexual couples. The conditions of marriage are unchanged.'

The day before debate began, a Sunday, as many as 400,000 people marched in Paris in support of marriage equality. While substantial, that number was less than the estimated 800,000 demonstrators who protested the equality bill on January 13.

Pro-equality marchers waved banners with slogans like 'Equality of rights is not a threat' and chanted: 'What do you want? Equality! When do you want it? Now!'

Another placard showed a version of the French government's seal, but with two 'Mariannes' (the female figure of Liberty) kissing. Under the words 'Liberty, Equality, Fraternity' was the slogan 'No more, no less!'

WHAT MAKES A FAMILY?
A young woman who identified herself to reporters as Magali said that marriage equality is inevitable.

'When I see the people who protest against Gay marriage, I am just so disappointed for France,' she said.

'They talk about family first, but they should see that society has changed. The family today is not the same as the family yesterday. We have to rethink the whole concept of family.'

French President François Hollande promised to enact marriage equality during his election campaign last year, and his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is committed to passing the measure.

Hollande's Socialist Party enjoys a comfortable majority in the National Assembly, France's parliament, so the eventual passage of the bill is not in doubt. The measure is also supported by Greens, Communists, and even some centrists.

MAJORITY SUPPORT
Opinion polls show that 55% to 60% of French people support same-sex marriage, though only about 50% approve of adoption by same-sex couples.

The openly Gay Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, said that the pro-equality march demonstrated public support for equality.

'There is a big difference between today's march and the [anti-equality] one two weeks ago, which is that this demonstration is one of brotherhood, not of hatred,' he said at a rally. 'The majority of French people want all couples to have equality in love and parenthood.'

BISHOP: INCEST IS NEXT
Most of the opposition to Hollande's plan has been mobilized by the Catholic Church. In September, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, said that the measure would open the door to incest and polygamy.

That prompted Delanoë to say that the elderly cleric must have 'flipped his lid.'

Some equality opponents predicted the legislation would lead to the collapse of French civilization.

'We'll have a country of Gays and in 10 years there'll be nobody left - that's stupid,' Serge Dassault, CEO of the Dassault industrial group and a right-wing politician, predicted in November.

Brian Ellner, an American activist who helped lead the campaign for marriage equality in New York, was in Paris, acting as an advisor to the pro-equality group All Out.

'France is always important as an exporter of ideas,' he said in an interview. 'That's why it's important internationally. I believe a win in France would undoubtedly have an impact globally and even in the United States.'

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