Divided France ponders gay marriage

Family|Family Law|January 11th 2013

Another day, another gay marriage story! Earlier this week we heard that the US Supreme Court has now set a date to ponder the current clash between federal and state law on this very topical issue, and then there was yesterday’s thought-provoking report from Canada: a judge there has reportedly branded the UK distinction in UK law between marriage and civil partnerships a violation of “human dignity”. Strong words indeed.

And now, courtesy of the New York Times, we have this vivid look at the controversies raging in France. How is our next door neighbour France is getting to grips with gay marriage?

The article, by journalist Steven Erlanger, depicts a country very much divided between traditional Catholic conservatism and modern liberalism.

On the one hand,  there is French president François Hollande, who pledged to legalise gay marriage during his election campaign – in fact he pledged to do so during his first year in office! A draft bill will go before the French parliament before the end of this month.

In December M Hollande’s partner, journalist Valérie Trierweiler, announced plans to attend the wedding of two gay friends once the law is passed.

And on the other hand there is veteran humourist and political satirist Frigide Barjot, who is firmly opposed.

“To make a child, you need a man and a woman,” she proclaims.  She is also against a planned law which would allow gay couples to adopt, describing this as  “is totally contrary to reality.”

Barjot has announced a mass demonstration against the plans for this Sunday, but many, even political parties opposed to gay marriage are wary of attending the rally.

Former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, says he supports equal rights for same sex couples but believes the word ‘marriage’ should be reserved for heterosexual couples.

A political analyst quoted in the article highlights the much stronger influence of religion across the channel. France is still a Roman Catholic country and:

“…there is a sense that when the church says: ‘Let’s not go too quickly. This is fashionable now and trendy, but aren’t we breaking a longstanding taboo that has meaning?’, a lot of people agree.”

Whatever the doubts of Barjot and d’Estaing, I would be willing to bet money on France legalising gay marriage eventually – whether sooner or later only time will tell. Not so long ago, same sex  marriage was a barely considered and rather shocking novelty for many. Now there is a real headwind behind the concept, a sense of inevitability, not just in France but the UK, the US and other countries too. I think it can be a matter of time before same sex marriage becomes an international norm.

Photo of the Château de Versailles by Eric Pouhier via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence

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