France’s Socialist government has dropped plans to change family law this year after angry weekend protests by thousands of conservatives against reforms they say undermine the traditional family.
A source in Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's office said on Monday that the government would no longer present a bill this year that was aimed at modernising the law to reflect the new "diversity" of families.
The government tried on Monday to reassure the protesters, who were estimated by police at over 100,000 in Paris and Lyon on Sunday, that the new law would not legalise assisted conception for lesbian couples or surrogate motherhood for gay men who wanted children.
But when some Socialist lawmakers insisted they would amend the planned bill to include those reforms, the government announced the draft law - which would also define the legal rights of step-parents in second marriages - needed more work.
“The government will not submit a family reform bill before the end of the year,” the prime minister’s office said.
Sunday’s protesters, many of them Catholics but also some Muslims, tapped into continued resentment against the legalisation of gay marriage last year.
Protest leaders accused the government of “family-phobia” and said assurances the family law would not include the reforms relating to gay parenthood were lies. French law currently only allows assisted reproduction for married couples with infertility problems.
The government’s retreat showed that, with President François Hollande’s popularity at an historic low and municipal elections coming up next month, it is eager to avoid further conflicts with increasingly frustrated centre-right voters.
Ludovine de la Rochère, the head of the Manif Pour Tous (Protest for All) movement that organised the demonstrations, said the government's decision was a victory for the conservative movement. "What was outlined in this bill was not conducive to the interests of children or of the family," she said.
The head of the government's Green Party coalition allies, Emmanuelle Cosse, urged the Socialists to reconsider. "This renunciation, a day after the mobilisation of the reactionary camp, is appalling," Cosse said.
The protests have been partly driven by claims that new modules being introduced in primary schools will result in children being encouraged to reject gender identities. The government has dismissed those claims as scaremongering by fringe activists.
One of Hollande’s aides told journalists the legislative priority would now be fighting near-record unemployment and pushing through a tax break scheme designed to get companies hiring again.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-02-04