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France

French parliament debates gay marriage bill

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-30

Controversial proposals to allow gay couples to marry and adopt children came under review Tuesday by France's parliament, which is due to vote on the bill in the coming weeks. Tens of thousands rallied in Paris on Sunday to support the bill.

France’s parliament on Tuesday officially began debating a proposed law to allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to voice either opposition to or support for a reform that has been championed by Socialist President François Hollande.

The proposed law would allow gay couples to marry and, because of their married status, to adopt children.

But key areas of the bill, which redefines marriage as "contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex”, have been dropped in a bid to appease opponents and a clause that would allow same-sex couples access to medically-assisted fertility treatment. Plans to ditch the words "father" and "mother" from official documents – to be replaced by “parent 1” and “parent 2” - have also been removed when it concerns heterosexual couples.

Historic speech?

The debate has sparked heated debate not only across the country, but also in France’s parliament.

In an impassioned speech, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told parliament as the debate kicked off that introducing gay marriage was "an act of equality".

“We want to know: what will the marriage of homosexual couples take away from heterosexual couples?” Taubira asked, to which several lawmakers replied “nothing”.

The justice minister, who also quoted poetry in her speech, then when on to say that, “we are proud of what we are doing”. French media later hailed the justice minister’s speech as “historic”.

The debate is expected to run until February 10 with a vote due two days later.

Polls suggest that some two-thirds of voters support gay marriage, although the adoption option is less popular. Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden currently allow gay adoption.

Conservative opposition

A closer look at France’s gay marriage debate

The proposed law has exposed a huge gulf of opinion in France. A campaign orchestrated by the Catholic Church and conservative groups steadily gathered momentum throughout the autumn and culminated in a giant protest in Paris two weeks ago.

Somewhere between 340,000 and 800,000 demonstrators flooded the capital in a protest that was at least twice the size of a pro-gay marriage march staged a fortnight later.

In September, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, the archbishop of Lyon, claimed the government's plans to redefine the concept of marriage would open the door to incest and polygamy.

That prompted Bertrand Delanoe, the mayor of Paris and one of France's few openly gay politicians, to say the elderly cleric must have "flipped his lid."

Similar withering criticism was directed at Serge Dassault, a prominent industrialist who suggested the French would die out after being consumed by the same decadence that led to the fall of ancient Greece.

"We'll have a land of homos," Dassault claimed. "And then in 10 years there will be no-one left. It's stupid."

Lesbian kiss

Julia Pistolesi and Auriane Susini kiss in front of shocked anti-gay marriage protesters. Photo Gérard Julien/ AFP.

The movement in support of gay marriage has been less vocal - but did produce the iconic image of a lesbian couple kissing in front of opponents of the planned legislation, snapped by AFP photographer Gérard Julien.

Throughout the turmoil, Hollande has been relatively quiet on the issue, although his girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler, a keen supporter of the bill, has revealed that the president will be attending marriages of gay friends once the legislation is passed.

The bill is expected to pass by the middle of this year, as the Socialists enjoy an outright majority in parliament and the proposed reform is supported by the Greens, Communists and some centrists.

Parliamentary opponents of the legislation have introduced some 5,000 amendments, but this tactic is not thought likely to delay or dilute the legislation.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-01-29

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