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France

Thousands gather in Paris for pro-gay marriage rally

© AFP

Video by Nicolas GERMAIN

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-01-27

Tens of thousands of people gathered for a mass rally in Paris on Sunday, two days before a parliamentary debate on the government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which will allow gay couples the same rights as their straight counterparts.

Tens of thousands of equal rights campaigners arrived in the French capital on Sunday, travelling by coach, train and car from across the country to demonstrate in support of same-sex marriage and adoption rights for homosexual couples.

The rally took place two days before parliament was due to discuss the Socialist government’s controversial marriage equality bill, which has sparked a nationwide debate and a major movement against it.

Police estimated that around 125,000 people turned out for the demonstration, while event organisers put the number significantly higher at 400,000.

On Saturday French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira described the reform as addressing “a situation of flagrant inequality” in an interview with weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche. Acknowledging widespread opposition to the move among Catholic and conservative groups, Taubira stressed that “the conditions of marriage will go unchanged; nothing will change for heterosexual couples.”

“This bill will protect all families. It will protect children’s rights,” she said, adding that hundreds of thousands of children currently live in homo-parental families in France, but lack the same security as their hetero-parental peers.

Nation divided

Organisers stressed that they were not “in competition” with opponents of the reform, who gathered some 340,000 demonstrators on January 13 – the country’s biggest march concerning a social issue in decades. “We’re not demonstrating in response to our opposition. We’ve been demonstrating for 10 years already,” Nicolas Gougain of the Inter-LGBT association told FRANCE 24 in an interview on Sunday.

“But this time we hope to surpass the numbers reached at our last march on December 16 [organisers said 150,000 took part, police put the number at 60,000]”.

Describing the impressive “anti” movement two weeks ago as a “product of unapologetic homophobia in France”, Gougain said that participants “were largely driven by fear and doubt, something which the opposition is good at aggravating."

“Some of those people believe that giving homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals will destabilise society,” he said. “Or that homosexual parents are potentially dangerous for their children.”

But a new survey shows that support for marriage and adoption equality has actually risen over the past month, despite the active opposition movement. A poll carried out by Ifop for news website Atlantico.fr last week.html showed that the proportion of French people who support gay marriage rose from 60 percent to 63 percent between early and late January.

Approval for adoption rights also rose three points, from 46 percent to 49 percent. “Following the demonstration on January 13 we expected less people to back [the reform],” Jerome Fourquet of the polling agency said. “But our findings show the opposite. Support for the plan is increasing – particularly on the left.”

Date created : 2013-01-27

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