French parliament allows gay marriage despite protests

PARIS Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:09pm EDT

1 of 8. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (R) hugs Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (2ndR) after a final vote on bill legalising same-sex marriage at the National Assembly in Paris April 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Charles Platiau

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PARIS (Reuters) - France became the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage on Tuesday after parliament approved a new law championed by President Francois Hollande, but it came at a political price amid violent street protests and a rise in homophobic attacks.

Hollande's "marriage for all" law is one of the biggest social reforms in France since his left-wing mentor and predecessor Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty in 1981, a move which also split opinion.

Lawmakers in the lower house National Assembly, where Hollande's Socialists have an absolute majority, passed the bill by 331 votes for and 225 against.

"Many French people will be proud this job is done," Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament. "Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds."

Yet the episode has proved costly for an already unpopular president. Critics said Hollande should focus instead on fixing the moribund economy while opponents of the law have demanded a referendum and protests against it descended into violence.

Opposition conservatives and centrists immediately appealed to the Constitutional Council, the country's top court, to have it struck down.

The ruling body will now debate whether the law is constitutional. Hollande wants the bill to come into effect by May 25, with the first gay marriages anticipated in June.

The debate has been blamed for a spate of homophobic attacks, including the beating of a 24-year-old in the southern city of Nice on Saturday. Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned this week of "zero tolerance" for such violence.

Socialist and conservative lawmakers had come close to blows more than once during lengthy parliamentary debates on the law, which authorizes adoption and marriage but will not allow gay couples to use medically assisted procreation.

Opponents of the law attempted to unveil a banner in parliament calling for a referendum before being taken away by security.

"You are adding a crisis to a crisis. You are stirring up tensions and are lighting the fuse of homophobia," Herve Mariton, a member of the opposition UMP party, told lawmakers ahead of the vote.

France, a mainly Catholic country, follows 13 others including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot.

In the United States, Washington D.C. and nine states have legalized same-sex marriage.

Unlike Mitterrand's abolition of the death penalty, which most French people opposed at the time, polls showed more than half the country backed Hollande's gay marriage law.

The gay community greeted the news with fanfare, with some rights groups dubbing April 23 the "Day of Love". But opponents gathered outside parliament for fresh demonstrations.

The leader of the "anti" movement, a feisty female comedian who goes by her stage name Frigide Barjot, has vowed to continue protests that have brought thousands on to the streets beginning on May 5, the first anniversary of Hollande coming to power.

(Reporting by Nicholas Vinocur and Emile Picy; Editing by Catherine Bremer and Mike Collett-White)

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Comments (8)
DerekWilliams wrote:
Given the collapsing popular mandate for this legislation being evinced by recent opinion polls, and the degree to which street demonstrations and violent anti-gay attacks in opposition to it have overwhelmingly dwarfed those in favour, my chief concern now is that this new law could easily be repealed by the Opposition parties if they should regain government.

There is every reason to fear this. It’s clear the French government has completely misread the electorate, whose support for equal marriage and adoption has been plummeting in repeat opinion polls. People who voted them into government clearly did so for any number of reasons outwith Marriage Equality. The Opposition remain resolutely opposed to LGBT equality, and may well consider they have sufficient popular mandate for repeal if re-elected. I see they’re already taking it to the French Supreme Court seeking to have it overturned on constitutional grounds.

Even if the street demonstrations cease, the battle for equal rights is by no means won, just because there has been a ceasefire. Gay people still have to live in our communities, and that is where things are getting worse in France, and can get worse still. There are so many ways to spoil this victory, ranging from hotels and wedding venues being suddenly “no vacancies”, to violence against person and property as we have been seeing on the rise.

These bigots are marching on viscerality alone, disingenuously obfuscating facts that have been known for decades about same sex parents.

The four leading child psychiatric associations in the USA, including the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Pediatric Association, relying on over 20 years of continuous research, have all determined that there are no adverse consequences for children raised by same sex parents. Their research did however find that children do significantly better with two parents irrespective of gender, than with one, or none.

In the light of these findings, protestors who scream “the children, the children, the children!”, should therefore redirect their efforts to end divorce and single parenthood. The fact that they instead concentrate their venom upon a group that has been proven time and time again to be harmless to children, and arguably better in some circumstances, confirms bigotry in all its ugly manifestations.

Apr 23, 2013 2:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
crod526 wrote:
Great sign for those against the marriage law, go out and beat up homosexuals. Anther reason laws like these are needed bigots looking for excuses to beat up a group they dislike.

Apr 23, 2013 3:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
breezinthru wrote:
Kudos to France

Apr 23, 2013 3:44pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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