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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-15

Police in the French capital Paris have refused to allow opponents to the country’s gay marriage bill to demonstrate on the city’s famed Champs-Elysées citing security concerns. France’s Senate is due to vote on the proposed law in early April.

As France’s divisive gay marriage bill heads to the Senate in early April, police in Paris have refused to grant opponents to the proposed law the right to march on the capital’s historic Champs Elysées, highlighting security reasons.

The legislation, which redefines marriage as a contract between two people rather than between a man and a woman, cleared a major parliamentary hurdle last month after it was approved by a clear majority in France’s National Assembly. Despite that, opponents to the bill have not given up hope of reversing its progress, calling for mass protests on the Champs Elysées on March 24.

Police in Paris, however, have denied protest organisers the authorisation to take to the world famous street, saying it posed a threat to “public order” in part because the Champs Elysée borders the presidential palace.

In a statement published on Thursday, the Paris police said that they had notified protest organisers in the past that a demonstration on the Champs Elysée was an “impossibility”.

“In order to ensure freedom of assembly, preserve public order and protect institutions, the police chief… invited the organisers to get in touch with its services to study possible alternative routes, which was not done,” the statement read.

Protesters dismiss police

Organisers of the protest have dismissed the police’s stance on the issue, insisting that they should be given the right to march on the Champs Elysées.

“We want a symbolic place that will allow the French public and the government to see that we exist en masse,” Frigide Barjot, a figurehead of the anti-gay marriage movement, told the Reuters news agency. “We’re going to continue talking to find a solution,” Barjot added.

The issue of gay marriage has proven to be hugely divisive in France, a country steeped in conservative Catholic values despite its global reputation as a progressive nation. According to a December 2012 survey by French polling centre IFOP for weekly newspaper Journal Du Dimanche, 60 percent of French people support gay marriage, but only 46 percent approve of same-sex adoption.

Legislators were forced to postpone plans to allow lesbians access to medically assisted procreation – something which is already available to heterosexual couples unable to conceive. A separate law on the issue will be debated later in the year.

The debate has sparked some of the country’s largest rallies in decades. The anti-gay marriage movement’s planned protest on March 24 was to be a last-ditch effort to demonstrate opposition to the bill before it is taken up by France’s left-leaning Senate on April 4, where it is largely expected to pass.

If approved, the reform will see France join 11 other countries including Spain, Sweden, South Africa and the Netherlands that have approved gay marriage.

Date created : 2013-03-15


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