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Dueling Demonstrations Surround Same-Sex Marriage in France

For several months, the debate about ‘universal marriage’ (i.e. same-sex marriage) has been a raging in France. The proposal to legally recognize same-sex marriage constitutes Commitment 31 of the 60 Commitments for France [fr], made by the government as part of the campaign platform on which François Hollande was elected on May 6, 2012.

Those who oppose Commitment 31 want the whole nation to engage in the debate, not merely the parliamentarians, come January 29, 2013 [fr]. Many of those who voted to elect President François Hollande were simply voting against Nicolas Sarkozy, and not necessarily for all 60 of the Commitments [January 29, 2013 is when the proposed legislation is due for debate in the National Assembly].

In France, same-sex couples are legally allowed to enter into a civil union known as the Civil solidarity pact (colloquially referred to as the ‘Pacs', which was instituted in 1999).

The Catholic church, which is at the forefront of the mobilization against Commitment 31, suspects that the government is seeking to open the floodgates towards gay parenting and surrogate mothers. As the Les Nouvelles/News : l’autre genre d’info [fr] website reports [fr]:

Le sujet est également un étendard des opposants au projet de loi, selon lesquels le droit à l'adoption pour les couples homosexuels ouvrira la voie aux mères porteuses.

This issue [homosexual adoption] is also a catchcry for those who oppose the proposed legislation, who believe that the right to adopt for homosexual couples will pave the way for surrogate mothers.

Several organisations [fr] joined the Catholic Church in marching through the streets of Paris and other French cities on November 17, 2012.

Faced with the magnitude of this mass mobilization, President François Hollande's Socialist Party decided to retaliate by calling on its members to also organize demonstrations for December 16, 2012 [fr].

Following this last set of demonstrations, the Catholic Church and other opponents of same-sex marriage- without having asked for so much [fr]- are seeing the public debate start to shift, just as they had suspected.
Street march for universal marriage rights in France by Pierre Selim on FlickR. License CC-BY-2.0

Street march for universal marriage rights in France by Pierre Selim on FlickR. License CC-BY-2.0

For instance, Pierre Bergé (known for being one half of the legendary power couple he formed with designer Yves Saint Laurent), businessman, president of Sidaction and proprietor of the LGBT magazine Têtu [fr], was cited in Le Figaro on December 17. He declared, during a demonstration in Paris in favor of marriage for all [fr]:

« Nous ne pouvons pas faire de distinction dans les droits, que ce soit la PMA, la GPA ou l'adoption, souligne Pierre Bergé, président du Sidaction et fondateur de Têtu. Moi je suis pour toutes les libertés. Louer son ventre pour faire un enfant ou louer ses bras pour travailler à l'usine, quelle différence? C'est faire un distinguo qui est choquant. »

“We cannot draw any distinctions in terms of rights, whether they concern medically assisted procreation, surrogacy or adoption,” emphasizes Pierre Bergé, president of Sidaction and founder of Têtu. “I am for all of these kinds of liberty. Hire your womb out to make a child or rent your arms out to work in a factory- what's the difference? It is the drawing of distinctions that is shocking.”

A Twitter [fr] reply by a Catholic preacher seemed to fall on deaf ears:

@abbegrosjean : la phrase qui choque de P. Bergé a le mérite d'illustrer crûment la suite prévisible et attendue de ce #mariagepourtous

@abbegrosjean: the phrase that Mr Bergé finds shocking has the merit of roughly illustrating the foreseeable and expected end result of #mariagepourtous [fr] ['#marriageforall']

The debate has taken another twist on Les Nouvelles/News : l’autre genre d’info [fr]:

Les parlementaires d'opposition contre le mariage pour tous, rassemblés dans une ‘Entente parlementaire pour la famille', ont d'ailleurs aussitôt rebondi sur les propos de Pierre Bergé. Selon eux, ces propos sont « inadmissibles et montrent bien l'état d'esprit des promoteurs de ce texte ainsi que la considération qu'ils ont de l'enfant et de la femme. »

Parliamentarians opposed to marriage for all, united in a ‘Parliamentary accord for the family', immediately pounced on the remarks of Pierre Bergé. According to them, these remarks are “unacceptable and clearly show the true mindset of the sponsors of this legislation and also of their perception of children and women”.

Voices that one might brand ‘leftist feminist’ are also starting to make themselves heard. On her blog l’Arène nue ['naked arena'], Coralie Delaume wrote (in her post on “Societal” reforms, the left and equality [fr]):

Il a toujours existé une gauche libérale. … Si l’on a coutume de considérer le libéralisme politique et culturel comme un tropisme « de gauche » et son versant économique comme l’apanage de « la droite » …  Alors qu’ils ne sont que les deux faces d’une même médaille, le développement du premier a créé les conditions de légitimation et l’environnement intellectuel propice au déploiement du second. …

Ainsi, cependant que les « libéraux économiques » abandonnent l'avenir aux bons soins du marché, le « libéraux culturels » – qui sont les mêmes – partent à l’assaut de droits individuels neufs. Mais – et c’est là qu’est le subterfuge – ils le font toujours « au nom de l’égalité ». …

Le mariage pour tous ? On le fera « au nom de l’égalité » … Mais de la seule égalité des droits, bien sûr. Car qui songe encore à lutter pour l’égalité des conditions ? …

Mais l’égalité des droits bénéficie surtout à ceux qui disposent des possibilités matérielles d’exercer lesdits droits.

There has always been a liberal left… We have been accustomed to considering political and cultural liberalism as a “left-wing” tropism and its economic counterpart as a “right-wing” prerogative… This is despite the fact that they are actually two sides of the same coin: the development of the former created the conditions for the legitimization and the intellectual environment favorable to the deployment of the latter. [...]

So while the “economic liberals” [fr] abandon the future to the care of market forces, the “cultural liberals”– who are really just the same– go on the offensive for new individual liberties. But– and this is where the subterfuge lies– they always do so “in the name of equality”. [...]

Marriage for all? It will be instituted “in the name of equality”… But only equality of rights- for who still dreams of struggling for equality of conditions? [...]

But equality of rights benefits, first and foremost, those who have the material capacity to exercise those rights.

@HypathieBlog‘s [fr] tweet summarizes this point perfectly:

Quand les femmes riches accepteront de louer leur ventre pour faire des enfants aux femmes pauvres, je serai pour la GPA [Gestation pour autrui : le terme politiquement correct pour mère porteuse, il faut noter que les mères porteuses sont interdites en France depuis 1991).

When rich women will willingly hire their wombs out to make children for poor women, I will be for GPA ('Gestation pour autrui'- this being the politically correct term [in French] for surrogacy; it must be noted that surrogacy has been forbidden in France since 1991) [note: the English language does not have an equivalent distinction, with the term 'surrogacy' being politically correct].

Twelve countries in the world, including eight European countries, recognize same-sex marriage (South Africa, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden- as well as 9 out of 50 states in the USA).

Opponents of same-sex marriage are calling for a demonstration on January 13, 2013 [fr], in Paris.

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