National Assembly Adopts Same-Sex Marriage

Video by Peter Ansell for La Jeune Politique.

PARIS. – The same-sex marriage bill was adopted Tuesday April 23 just after 5:00 p.m. without further amendments, but that does not mean the fight is over.  The final vote came to 331 for and 225 against after impassioned speeches from various party leaders on both sides.  Chants of “egalité” rang through the room with the announcement of the results.

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Marriages can take place in early June, the government affirms, however the opposition confirmed their decision to file an appeal with the Constitutional Council.  Le Manif pour Tous still declares, “After Tuesday we continue.” They are referring to their continued opposition to the legislation in hopes of obtaining a referendum.

Hopefulness and uncertainty, but also a fair dose of planning and postulations will still preoccupy the millions of French people invested in this issue.

Some express the optimistic view that, hopefully with the bill formally adopted, everyone will “go home,” as one attendee of the pro-gay marriage demonstrations put it.  But as a Manif pour Tous activist, Euryanthe Mericier, 18, tweeted on Sunday, “we will remain mobilized, even after the bill is passed”.

In reality, while the bill was introduced in November, the debate has been going on for much longer than that. The adoption of the same-sex marriage law does not mean France will turn a page and start anew as the progressive 14th country to legalize gay marriage.  Homophobia and opposition to these rights for homosexuals will not be overturned, but will take time to settle.

Anti Gay Marriage Protest on April 21 in Paris. Photo: Eleni Zaras for La Jeune Politique.

Anti Gay Marriage Protest on April 21 in Paris.
Photo: Eleni Zaras for La Jeune Politique.

Yet when opposition groups argued that the acceleration of the bill with only twenty-five hours of debate was undemocratic and was not enough time for sufficient deliberation, Tom Craig, the English spokesperson for ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), retorts with, “We’ve been debating this for fifteen years. Where have you been?”

But the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) has already vocalized their desire to challenge the constitutionality of the bill and Le Manif pour Tous has already scheduled the next demonstrations for May 5 and May 26.  The President of UMP, Jean-François Copé, warns that the next protests “will certainly be an occasion for a lot of French to express an even broader discontent over the entire policy of Francois Hollande.” And seeing members of the UMP and the Front National (FN) side by side on Sunday is making some nervous, even though Marine Le Pen, President of the FN, publicly announced on Monday that they remain opposing groups, even if they share the same opinion on gay marriage.

Still, people from both sides of the issue share the same general prediction of a surge in popularity for right-wing parties in the next presidential elections of 2017.  Right wing parties, UMP and FN, are already gearing up for 2017, as mentions of this next election during protests suggests.  As Hollande’s popularity has been dropping, this swing back to the right would not be surprising.

“It’s going to be what happened in 2004,” Craig explains, “The National Front Party is going to try to pass through the first primary election, I predict, because of this [new law].  And that’s what they wanted. That is really the whole story behind this. They don’t care about gay people. We’re not a threat to them.”  But even if the right wing parties gain control the government in 2017, overturning same-sex marriage after four years would not be a simple matter.

François, a twenty-three year old who had participated in many of the Manif pour Tous protests last week acknowledges the challenges of trying to revoke the law a few years down the road, for “if you married somebody, what are you going to do, unmarry them?”

As Craig has been involved with Act-Up since its founding in 1989 and has been living in Paris for thirty years, he states, “I have the perspective from the past present and the future of what this means.” As he’s seen it, “This whole thing started back in august by the extreme right that formed a popular movement to use this issue to use against the socialist government, which is essentially what it’s all about.”

But now, as he has witnessed the recent, unexpected acts of homophobia, it is clear that regardless of the legalization of same-sex marriage, he recognizes that “anything can happen.”

Trackbacks

  1. […] Hollande also alienated the moderate electorate who voted for him because of his “normal presidency” campaign. They will not come back to him either, a fact made even more definite by the Cahuzac scandal. The Christian right, seduced by the budgetary rigor of Hollande’s platform, is also lost after the gay marriage legalization. […]

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