Gay Marriage Debate Still Heated After Bill Passes in Senate

Manif pour Tous protest on March 24. Sign with fists reads "Don't touch marriage, deal with unemployment." Photo: Eleni Zaras

Manif pour Tous protest on March 24. Sign with fists reads “Don’t touch marriage, deal with unemployment.”
Photo: Eleni Zaras

The final vote on the gay marriage and adoption bill is scheduled for a fixed-time debate of 25 hours to be followed by a final vote on April 23, in hopes of more rapidly quelling social disorder.

But is it time to move on or should there be more debate?

Opposition groups, such as Manif pour Tous, claim that President François Hollande is accelerating the debate to intensify the issue and distract from the Cahuzac scandal. Other critics cite that he ought to be prioritizing the unemployment crisis, rather than focusing so much energy on the family.  But some, like Elizabeth Ronzier, president of the gay-rights group SOS Homophobie, welcome the prospect of a speedy resolution next week, in hopes that it will put to rest the agitation.  But, as the senate vote seemed to provoke only more fervent demonstrations, it is difficult to say if holding the final vote sooner will help either.

UMP members Christian Jacob and Hervé Mariton have criticized the acceleration of the bill.  Mariton riled up crowds in Lyon on Sunday, stating, “They’re scared because nobody wants this text!” and Jacob has deemed it “a total humiliation of Parliament.” Mariton warns that if, by accelerating the process, Hollande wanted to prevent the scheduled Manif pour Tous demonstration on May 26, “he will reap more instead.”

Which seems to be true, at least in the immediate future.  The Manif pour Tous revealed a call to demonstrate every evening at the National Assembly starting Tuesday April 16, next Sunday, April 21, and May 5, as well as Sunday May 26th.

In just over a week, the intensity has significantly escalated: there was the attack on a gay couple in Paris’s nineteenth arrondissement last week, followed by a demonstration of about 7,000 people against homophobia outside Hôtel de Ville Wednesday. Friday saw the opposition demonstration outside the Luxembourg Palace, seat of the French Senate, which was then followed by an attack on UMP activist Samuel Lafont. On Saturday opponents of the bill targeted and attempted assault of feminist journalist Caroline Fourest and on Sunday, on Manuel Valls. And there was even a mock gay marriage ceremony held on Sunday by the LGBT Group, “Oui, oui, oui”.

Twitter and other social media sources have been exploding with finger-pointing, threats, calls to protest, and general complaints this past week, too. Even former Prime Minister François Fillon has established a presence on Twitter regarding the issue, stating “I am the only politician to say it: if we return to power, we would rewrite this text” (“Je suis le seul homme politique a avoir dit : si nous revenons au pouvoir, nous réécrirons ce texte”).

Parisians are neither passive nor patient bystanders.

But, as a result, law enforcement have cracked down.  Seventy people were arrested at 1:00am Monday morning, as protesters tried to set up camp outside the National Assembly in response to the attack against Lafont.  Fourteen people were arrested after targeting Valls Sunday evening.  Fifty-six were reportedly arrested Sunday near the Senate, but were not placed in custody. And another demonstrator targeting Fourest was arrested at the station in Nantes for throwing stones at police.

The opponents to the bill are not only feeling overlooked, but also, as articulated in a recent Manif pour Tous press release, they believe that “[Hollande] despises the French people” and is perpetrating a “very serious threat to national cohesion.” Those sentiments will not go away when the bill passes into law and are only strengthened by the accelerated procedure

Would more time for debate be beneficial? These massive demonstrations only reflect how deeply rooted people’s positions are on this issue, on either spectrum.  These are not beliefs that will dissipate with a final vote nor are they of the nature that would be easily swayed by a few extra weeks of discussion.

Regardless of when the bill passes, Hollande will face still lower approval ratings from the bill’s opponents. Furthermore, the French community at large will still have to battle homophobia.

The bill itself perhaps represents only the beginning of the challenges to the social, moral fabric of the French people and the continuation of dissatisfaction with the political strategy of Hollande’s France.

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  1. […] in France are using to protest a series of left-wing social victories, in particular the legalization of gay marriage in April 2013 — a law known popularly as “Marriage for Everyone.” The Right has also taken […]

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