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France

Gay marriage, one year on: ‘French civilisation did not crumble’

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-23

On Tuesday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the legalisation of gay marriage and adoption in France, French politician Jean-Luc Romero tweeted: “Our civilisation did not crumble, despite the alarmist predictions.”

Indeed, the months of fierce debate and sometimes violent protests that preceded the vote last year saw right-wing deputies and senators warning that same-sex marriage and adoption would destroy French society. One MP ironically suggested “legalising three-way marriages while we’re at it”.

But, as Romero suggested, France is still standing, with roughly 7,000 same-sex couples having tied the knot here, according to the Insee statistics agency. Those unions made up around three percent of all marriages registered in France in 2013.

Despite the ferocious and well-organised opposition to the law, which was an election pledge by Socialist President François Hollande, most of those marriages took place without incident. One exception was the first same-sex marriage, on May 29 in the gay-friendly southern city of Montpellier. A heckler who hurled homophobic insults at the couple getting married is being made to pay a fine of 3,800 euros.

But many staunch conservatives and religious Catholics continue to oppose the measure. Certain mayors have argued that the fact that they cannot opt out of performing gay marriages violates the French constitution, which specifies that “freedom of conscience” is a fundamental human right.

Same-sex parenthood still rare

Moreover, though gay couples may now adopt children, associations say only a few dozen same-sex adoptions have been finalised. And for the moment, much to the dismay of LGBT rights activists, artificial insemination is only available for heterosexual couples; though legalising it for all couples was included in earlier versions of the bill, the language was removed to avoid an even more hostile stand-off with the opposition. Surrogacy, meanwhile, remains entirely illegal on French territory. 

Another legacy of the long debate over gay marriage and adoption in France is the unity of the anti-marriage-equality movement, known here as “La Manif pour tous” (which translates roughly as “A Demonstration for Everyone”) -- a play on the name of France’s marriage equality movement, called “Mariage pour tous” or “Marriage for Everyone”. Driven by conservative, practising Catholics, the movement has continued to promote its vision of the traditional, heteronormative family structure, drawing an estimated 100,000 protesters into the streets in February for an organised march.

Nearly every night, a group of militants from “La Manif pour tous” continues to gather in front of the justice ministry in Paris, protesting the law that today marks its one-year anniversary -- and hoping to prevent future laws that would afford same-sex couples more freedoms in starting a family.

Date created : 2014-04-23

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