November 13, 2012
By Jacob Combs
Amidst the hubbub of the election last week, we didn’t have an opportunity to cover another important marriage equality update taking place in France, where Socialist President Francois Hollande’s government is making good on a campaign promise to allow same-sex couples to marry. Last Wednesday, the New York Times reports, Hollande’s cabinet approved a first draft bill that would legalize marriage equality in the country, even as opposition from French conservatives has grown more pointed in the last month. From the Times:
The draft law redefines marriage to stipulate that it is “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex,” and the words “father” and “mother” in existing legislation are replaced by “parents.” The bill would also allow married gay couples to adopt children.
Christiane Taubira, the justice minister, told the conservative newspaper La Croix that “marriage for all,” as the government calls it, was a response to “a demand for equality.”
But the move to legalize same-sex marriage has been controversial, and the bill was subject to delays in a country where only married couples can adopt. Opinion polls indicate that a majority of the French support gay marriage, but only half approve of allowing gays to adopt.
On Wednesday, Serge Dassault, an influential senator from the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, said the bill represented “the end of the family, the end of children’s development, the end of education.” He called it “an enormous danger to the nation.”
Not surprisingly, much of the opposition to the French bill has come from religious officials in the country. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Paris’s archbishop, called the bill a “deception,” according to the Times, telling an assembly of 120 bishops in Lourdes over the weekend, “When we defend the right of children to build their personality with reference to the man and the woman who gave them life, we are not defending a particular position.”
The bill does not include provisions that would allow same-sex couples the same access to state aid for artificial insemination that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. LGBT activists have said they will push to include such rights in the future, even if it requires additional legislation, and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said that an amendment could be added to the law in the future.
The draft bill will go before parliament in January, where Hollande’s party has a comfortable majority. Still, the campaign for marriage equality in France looks like it’s just starting to heat up, and success there is far from guaranteed.