France pledges marriage equality despite protests
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France’s same-sex marriage reform will go ahead despite a massive Catholic-driven rally in the French capital on Sunday which saw hundreds of thousands gather to demonstrate against the marriage equality bill.
France’s same-sex marriage bill will go ahead, French Justice Minister Christine Taubira said on Sunday in response to a massive rally calling for the bill to be scrapped or put to a national referendum.
Hundreds of thousands of people massed at the Eiffel Tower to protest against the Socialist government’s plan to legalise gay marriage and adoption by June.
But the government pledged not to backtrack on its promise to allow same-sex couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
François Hollande’s office issued a statement saying that while turnout at the rally was “substantial,” the president would not change his determination to pass the reform.
“A referendum on same-sex marriage would be unconstitutional,” Justice Minister Taubira said in an interview on national TV channel TF1. “The constitution stipulates the circumstances when a referendum is possible; here it is not the case. The bill will go ahead.”
FRANCE 24’s Stephen Carroll reported from the march that protesters were hoping with a turnout large enough, the movement could sway to government. Organisers boasted a turnout of some 800,000 people, although police put the number at 340,000.
“The French government says it’s still determined that this law should go through parliament,” Carroll said, adding that protesters calling for a referendum on the issue would likely be met with more disappointment. “The latest survey published on Saturday shows that 56% of French voters support the idea of same-sex marriage,” he said.
Catholics and Muslims united
Protesters waved pink and blue flags showing a father, mother and two children and slogans such as “marriagophile, not homophobe,” “all born of a father and mother” and “paternity, maternity, equality.” Traveling from across the country to attend the march, they converged on the Eiffel Tower from different meeting points in Paris.
“Nobody expected this two or three months ago,” said Frigide Barjot, a flamboyant comedian leading the “Demo for All”. At the rally, she read out a letter to Hollande asking him to withdraw the draft bill and hold an extended public debate on the issue.
Strongly backed by the Catholic Church hierarchy, Barjot and groups working with her mobilised church-going families and political conservatives as well as some Muslims, evangelicals and even homosexuals opposed to gay marriage to protest.
Opponents of gay marriage and adoption, including most faith leaders in France, have argued that the reform would create psychological and social problems for children, which they believe should trump equal rights for gay couples.
Hollande has angered those opposed to same-sex marriage by trying to avoid public debate on the reform and then wavering about some of its details.
His clumsy handling of other promises, such as a 75% tax on the rich that was ruled unconstitutional, and a faltering struggle against rising unemployment have dented his popularity in recent opinion polls.
Protests in Britain and Italy
Same-sex weddings are legal in 11 countries including Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and South Africa, as well as nine US states and Washington DC.
Over 1,000 Catholic clerics in Britain issued a protest letter on Saturday against plans to legalise gay marriage there.
In Italy, the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano on Sunday condemned a court ruling against a father who sought custody of his son because the mother now lives with her female partner.
The marches in near-freezing temperatures included young and old protesters, many of them couples with children in tow, in strollers or on their fathers’ shoulders.
“I am perfectly happy that homosexual couples have rights and are recognised from a civil point of view,” said protester Vianney Gremmel. “But I have questions regarding adoption.”
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, a French Catholic leader who launched the opposition with a critical sermon in August, greeted protesters in southern Paris but did not march with them.
Civitas, a far-right Catholic group that sees homosexuality as a sin, staged a much smaller march along another route.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)