Where Does France’s Unmarried President Really Stand on Same-Sex Marriage?

A demonstration drawing perhaps 800,000 showed mounting opposition to draft law granting marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples--and highlights wide ambivalence some claim Socialist President François Hollande shares.

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LIONEL BONAVENTURE / AFP / Getty Images

Young protesters join a march against same-sex marriage in Paris on Jan. 13, 2013

Opponents of France’s proposed Marriage for All law granting same-sex couples marriage and adoption rights staged an impressive show of force Jan. 13 by mobilizing up to 800,000 marchers against the measure. But while ruling Socialists responded to the self-described Protest for All with vows to pass the legislation when it goes before Parliament Jan. 29, the size of the demonstration served to illustrate significant divisions within France toward the initiative. Those clashing positions also exist within otherwise united political camps — including what some observers claim is the ambivalent attitude of French Socialist President François Hollande.

Sunday’s Paris marches attracted what organizers said were 800,000 very boisterous protesters. Police estimates put those numbers closer to 340,000, though even that more than tripled the 70,000 to 100,000 who participated in an earlier demonstration in November. General momentum around Marriage for All appears to be similarly shifting. A recent opinion poll found 56% of French people backing the legalization of gay marriage — about 10 points lower than levels in November 2012. The same survey found support of adoption rights for gay couples dropping four points to 45%. Despite those evolving views, the ruling Socialists responded to Sunday’s protest by vowing to pass their Marriage for All law for the country’s own good.

(MORE: Is Gay Marriage Too Progressive for the French?)

“The government is totally determined to realize this reform — this historic advance that isn’t a victory of one camp over another, but progress for all of society,” said government spokeswoman and Women’s Rights Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem on Europe 1 radio Monday. “We’re taking note of this [demonstration] … [But] it’s before Parliament that this issue will be debated, not in the streets.”

Yet to a considerable degree, that debate is already raging in protest corteges and public meetings across France, where political conservatives, religious leaders and their followers — and even some leftists who all feel the stability of the family is being undermined by the draft law — are voicing their opposition to it. In an effort to undercut anticipated criticism that their position is built on mere homophobia, detractors of Marriage for All are focusing their message on defending the traditional family unit and protecting children.

Defenders of the initiative, meantime, are swapping their initial confidence (and possible complacency) about the law’s passage with energetic counterdemonstrations supporting the measure. An initial Paris march on Dec. 16 attracted between 60,000 and 200,000 people, and a follow-up rally is planned for Jan. 27. Supporters call the legislation another step toward reversing long-standing discrimination of gays by granting them the same marriage and adoption rights that heterosexual couples enjoy; they also say Marriage for All will broaden and strengthen families, not destroy them.

Those contrasting positions have thus far prevented debate over the draft law from becoming a shouting match pitting incompatible camps of religious fundamentalists and traditionalists against the gay community and social progressives. Given the multiplicity of groups on both sides of the debate, stereotyping either camp is almost impossible.

(MORE: A Brief History of International Gay Marriage)

In fact, divisions over the legislation even cuts within party ranks. Jean-François Copé, leader of France’s main conservative Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, participated in Sunday’s march to represent official UMP hostility to Marriage for All. However, several party figures — including members of former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet — have come out in strong support of the measure, and even criticized conservatives blocking what they say is an important advance many other European countries have already embraced.

Meanwhile, extreme-right National Front (FN) leader Marine Le Pen refused to demonstrate Sunday alongside conservative foes like Copé whom she accuses of politically “exploiting” opposition to the measure — in contrast to the FN’s heartfelt rejection of it. Yet some pundits suspect it was actually Le Pen’s personal views on gay issues — which have at times been more tolerant than the official FN line and also more liberal than that of some mainstream conservatives — that motivated her absence Sunday.

There’s even been speculation that Hollande himself is of mixed minds on the Marriage for All legislation. In his private life Hollande has fathered four children and had long, stable relationships with at least two women — including current partner and First Lady Valérie Trierweiler — without ever seeing the utility of marriage along the way. For that reason, some French observers suspect Hollande supports Marriage for All more out of progressive ideology and political symbolism than from reverence of matrimony as an institution everyone should be getting in on.

There have been other hints of Hollande’s hesitancy. As the text of the legislation slowly made its way toward Parliament, Hollande dismayed some fellow leftists by refusing calls to add an amendment granting same-sex couples access to state-subsidized medical assistance in conceiving children. He also set off a tempest by suggesting French mayors who personally oppose Marriage for All on ethical grounds could cite “freedom of conscience” in refusing to conduct civil ceremonies in same-sex marriages.

Government officials have repeatedly rejected Hollande’s purported ambivalence, assuring skeptics that the President is fully behind the measure. Be that as it may, that determination won’t likely alter what seems to be the emphatically conflicting attitudes in wider France on same-sex marriage and adoption — nor squelch loud opposition to Marriage for All, even after it’s the law of the land.

(MORE: How the Gay-Marriage Victories Are (Slowly) Transforming the Notion of Family)

21 comments
mrmsjb12
mrmsjb12

you do not need marriage thats for old fashioned people how else would you be able to come and go as you please without some body badgering you

TravisDeMaria
TravisDeMaria

France needs to get into reality here. Canada not only has had same sex marriage for 7 years now (10 years in Ontario, Manitoba and BC), but we also allow gay adoption, and fund transgender operations. Our world certainly hasn't fallen apart nor has the family unit crumbled. Human beings have an innate fear of change. They will see that nothing will change. It's simply wrong to deny people basic civil rights like marriage and adoption on the basis of sexual preference. These protestors are on the wrong side of history. 

BlueGilly
BlueGilly

@TIME @TIMEWorld kkk He is a Flan! :)

Rain_Varela
Rain_Varela

@TIME @timeworld sweet he ain't married , just have partners, that is a nice way to go at it

khanfahiiim
khanfahiiim

@TIME @TIMEWorld He loks like a CAT on the wall

My_Boop
My_Boop

@time @timeworld LOL, He's for it!!

palfrei
palfrei

I still fail to see how the concept of the standard family will be put in risk by taking measures like this one.

One could think that, given the amount of resistance to this kind of law, there are even more homosexuals than the suspected amount, which are secretly waiting for some law like this to be passed so that they could ditch the spouse, the kids but take the family pet and live gaily with his/her same sex partner consequently causing the end of the human species.


Yes, there could be some "closeted" homosexuals waiting for something like this to happen in order to open themselves to the general public and live the life they want for them but that will not entail the end of humanity because men and women wouldn't procreate with each other any more. There will still be lots of heterosexual humans around to populate Earth should such thing were ever going to be required again because right now, the world is already overpopulated as the high unemployment, social exclusion and poverty rates are mere examples of the unbalance between current population compared to actual open job positions and social improvement


Unless eight of ten people in every community were homosexual, which would imply the sort of apocalyptic panorama pictured above, there shouldn't be any issues with a law like this.


Regarding the religious aspect of the law, it would be a law and as such, a warrant provided by the state and not the church as there would be no spirituality in it, only pragmatism.

Regarding right and wrong, both are completely subjective and context dependent values so the target population's mind and cultural background must be taken into consideration before applying any of such values to anything related to that people and their politics.


My country approved a law like this one and families didn't vanish from Earth magically the moment it was voted as men and women are still getting married to each other, giving birth to children and raising them as it has always been done since the beginning of our times.

missmoonriver
missmoonriver

@TIME @timeworld @JeromePandell After a month in Paris I see that Hollande is pretty extreme in socialist ideals. He should swing left.

velositas
velositas

Hahahaha XD RT @TIME: Where does France's unmarried president really stand on same-sex marriage? | http://t.co/fevf7s7N (via @TIMEWorld)

JulienRichard
JulienRichard

It's now for me a shame to be French.They called themselves non-homophobic, but thez're lying about everything, and lying to childrens. Some children thought that after the vote of the law about gay marriage and adoption, police officers will take them away from their parents. Can you believe it ?!?

WANTED : "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" ; not dead but alive.

cybervigilante
cybervigilante

Dumbnut haters - don't those lintbrain protestors have anything better to do? France is in a recession. Maybe instead of protesting they should try Working. Maybe if they had money in the bank they'd have a decent life and not spend so much time hating. Probably mostly rightwing Muslims - killing and whipping women  to death when They were raped, as the Saudis do, is okay for them - gays are not. The Christians are just as bad. Jesus said to love but you listen to their rightwing radio and it's all about hate the poor, hate the gays, hate everything they can.


nofail
nofail

I guess that the next logical step to gay mariage is gay priests ...

Because afterlife was for the pharaoh and now for everybody.

So icon of the holy family and now marriage for all.

I dont understand why gays want to shelter in that vision of peace.

The french president has divorced, everybody does now.

So marriage for all is not resilient for society, its not progressive.

The president his fiance and us need a secular contract between two lovers

that dont involve their soul in the process of union

but unify their tangible projects in a limited time (not eternity, my god!)

(ok sorry it sounds like a nikah mut'ah for all solution, thats how the world goes by)

thefripe
thefripe

@TIME You have wrong info : 800k is the number given by the Organisation,not by Police. *Impressive* is Millions in France #mariagepourtous

bjgouki
bjgouki

@TIME @TIMEWorld The same place as Australia's current PM, no doubt. On a high horse.

andrewadastra
andrewadastra

Are you joking?! He supports it, campaigned on it. RT @TIMEWorld - How does France's unmarried President feel about gay marriage?

mrmsjb12
mrmsjb12

@Rain_Varela be like the americans home of the free and unmarried