France Continues Debate on Gay Marriage and Adoption Laws

Demonstration in front of the Cathedral in Nantes. From Le Dauphine.
Photo: PQR/F. DUBRAY

One of Hollande’s campaign promises was to grant gay couples the right to marry and adopt. The reform was supposed to be voted on in 2013, but the debate between the French Catholic Church and the political and civil spheres has now taken center stage.

The entry of the Church into the debate is linked to Cardinal André Vingt-Trois’ s Assumption prayer on August 15th.  In the most controversial part of his prayer, he said: “We give our prayers to God, on behalf of our Mother…for the children and young people…that they cease to be the objects of desire and of conflict for adults in order to fully benefit from the love of a father and a mother.” This statement reaffirms the Church’s belief that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

The right for gay couples to marry and adopt does not just divide the Church. Although the Left has a majority in the National Assembly, essentially guaranteeing the passage of this bill, the center party and the Right are internally divided on the issue.

For Christian Jacob, the Seine et Marne deputy and UMP leader in the National Assembly, most members of the UMP are opposed to such a reform, but everything will depend on the specifics of the bill. He thinks that the Pacte Civil de Solidarité (PACS), the equivalent of a civil union, can be improved, especially concerning wealth transfer in the case of the death of a spouse. Jacob is personally opposed to gay marriage because of the right to adopt.

Others, like the UMP Marne Deputy Benoist Apparu, call for a distinction between “social recognition of homosexual love” and adoption. According to Apparu, one should either “create a specific ceremony for homosexual couples” at Town Hall, or “differentiate between marriage and filiation.”

There are also critics rising up against the Church. The Parti Radical de Gauche has advocated that the French Catholic Church has “no democratic legitimacy to interfere in political debate in France.”

It is true that the Church has no right to intervene in the French political realm because of the separation between Church and State. However, it does have the right to defend and express its values and conceptions about marriage and family.

In an interview for BFM TV, Bishop Bernard Podevin declared that the Church wants a debate about these upcoming reforms that will significantly transform French society. Podevin emphasized the constructive aspect of this debate, saying that it would benefit all members of the society to engage in this debate. He asserted that he did not want to create a controversy.

According to an IFOP survey for La Lettre de l’Opinion, 65% of French people are in favor of gay marriage and 53% are in favor of gay couples being granted adoption rights. If we only look at the Catholic population that completed the survey, 45% of this group is in favor of gay marriage and 36% is in favor of adoption rights.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Obama declared himself in favor of gay marriage, as the statistics concerning the people in favor of such a measure are rising. This statement could be viewed as a campaign maneuver to gain votes, but we can also see it as a reform that addresses the evolution that has occurred in society.

Society and its views are changing, and along with it beliefs about the place of the gay population in society, the conceptions of gay marriage, followed by changes in the traditional conception of the family. Furthermore, many countries have already introduced bills that allow for gay marriage and adoption, including Sweden, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and six out of fifty American states.

The position of the French Catholic Church on this issue is understandable, as it is understandable that the reform should concern civil marriages and not religious ones. This topic is a sensitive one and requires a lot of dialogue between all constituent parts of society. A journalist for Le Monde has said that the debate will not only be based on religion or society only. The issue deals with one of the key values of France: equality.

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