France’s Lower House Pushes Through Gay-Marriage Legalization — Now What?

France's leftist-controlled Parliament passes bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption over stiff opposition from conservative detractors, sending the text to probable upper-house approval into law in March

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JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP / Getty Images

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, left, with Junior Minister for Family Dominique Bertinotti, center, and Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, listens to lawmakers explaining their vote on the same-sex marriage legislation on Feb. 12, 2013, in Paris

France took a big step toward balancing the rights of homosexuals and heterosexuals on Feb. 12, when the leftist-controlled Assemblée Nationale passed draft law legalizing marriage and adoption for same-sex couples. The legislation, adopted by a vote of 329 to 229, now heads to the left-dominated upper house of Parliament for expected final passage in April. From there, the so-called Marriage for All bill will undergo routine legal and constitutional vetting before going into force as French law — probably later in spring.

Though first-phase passage of the text was virtually certain, the vote was nevertheless significant for numerous reasons. Politically, it was the first major social reform presented by Socialist President François Hollande — whose promise to legalize same-sex marriage was one of his central campaign planks. Meantime, it saw socially liberal France finally embrace marriage and family rights for same-sex couples that many countries adopted long ago, including some considered more conservative. And after several embarrassing policy setbacks — like the constitutional incompatibility of Hollande’s planned 75% tax rate on incomes exceeding €1 million ($1.3 million) — the resounding lower-house approval of Marriage for All sent the French public the not altogether common image of Parliament’s leftist majority marching in lock step with Hollande’s often more cautious Cabinet to put policy into place.

(MORE: Where Does France’s Unmarried President Really Stand on Same-Sex Marriage?)

“This law is in line with a long series of republican reforms for equality and against discrimination,” said Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault as legislators prepared to vote. “Contrary to what those who rail against it say — and fortunately they’re in the minority — this law is going to strengthen the institution of marriage.”

Despite the large margin of victory, bringing the text to vote was a laborious affair — and the fight over Marriage for All won’t be over even once the law is enacted. The legislation remains an issue of contention — even among people who back it — and widened the split within French society over same-sex marriage and adoption rights.

A Feb. 8 Ifop survey for French news site Atlantico.fr found 66% of respondents supporting same-sex marriage — a level of public approval generally reflected in previous polls on the topic. By contrast, the Atlantico.fr study found only 47% of French people backing adoption rights for same-sex couples — down from 52% in Oct. 2012. In general, sociologists say, the majority of French people view equal rights for same sex couples as being both logical and over due, but start expressing more doubts when parenting and child-raising issues are factored into the debate.

Similar ambiguity has also been reflected within political parties. France’s main conservative party, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), found itself caught in the political trap of having to oppose any policy championed by rival leftists — but this time involving a social reform many UMP members and officials privately support. As part of that often pro forma resistance, conservatives introduced nearly 5,000 amendments to undermine the text — virtually all of which were struck down during 10 straight days of frequently uproarious parliamentary debate. Maintaining party discipline in the face of personal conviction wasn’t always easy. Heading into Tuesday’s vote, UMP leaders warned that perhaps 15% of the party’s 196 legislators might support the bill or abstain during voting, despite the official order to reject the Hollande measure. In the end, two UMP legislators voted for the bill — along with five centrists — with another five conservative PMs opting not to vote at all.

Divided conservative ranks over gay marriage weren’t limited to France’s opposition. On Feb. 5, the U.K.’s House of Commons approved a measure to legalize marriage for same-sex couples in Britain that split the right. In stark contrast to France, however, the Tory-tabled U.K. bill won support of opposition Labour MPs in clearing passage, as some 176 Conservative legislators voted against the text, abstained or disqualified themselves by casting ballots for and against it.

But such fissures haven’t been limited to parties of the right. Several Socialist Party legislators from less laissez-faire overseas territories had warned before Tuesday’s vote they might vote against the text to express concerns they and their constituents had with Marriage for All. More hard-line leftists in Hollande’s majority promised that once the measure became law, they’d quickly push to have another chapter added to it so fertilization treatment for same-sex couples would be covered by France’s state health care system as it is for heterosexuals. Debate within the left and right alike becomes even more animated over the issue of same-sex couples using surrogate mothers to procreate.

Despite the various layers of disagreement over Marriage for All, the measure was never at risk of failing to clear initial passage Tuesday en route for probable upper-house approval in April. Though the left’s majority in the upper chamber is far slimmer — just six seats — the legislation is expected to be voted through in early April. Yet even then, opponents promise to continue denouncing the measure — starting with a March 24 remake of the January marches that drew as many as 800,000 people into the streets of Paris. Religious and political conservatives maintain that the bill will undermine the solidity, structure, and even concept of the family unit. They pledge to keep attacking the initiative in the defense of children — even after it becomes law.

While that promises more of the remarkably large, well-organized protests that opponents have staged since late 2012, those are very unlikely to have any affect on Marriage for All. Though that very vocal French minority is good at airing its unhappiness with the bill, Hollande knows the far larger voting majority of French society considers the reform fair, curative, and long overdue — and just doesn’t say so as loud.

MORE: Is Gay Marriage Too Progressive for the French?

9 comments
rodzzz
rodzzz

It's amazing that Christians can't see the hypocrisy of claiming to promote the love and tolerance of Jesus Christ, yet promoting discrimination of homosexuals. Read http://rationalexaminer.com for a discussion of why the churches are wrong on the issue of gay marriage and how it is inconsistent with Christian principles.

SeriousCyanosis
SeriousCyanosis

 Since the only true argument against gay marriage is a religious one, it puzzles me how so many western countries can uphold their alleged separation of church and state. 

These two institutions are (or rather: should be) kept separated in order to prevent religious morals dictating the lives of non-believers. I like to remind christians and muslims of the fact that they do not necessarily know the truth, but BELIEVE to know the truth, implying there is a chance that they are mistaken. Imposing biblical or Quran inspired laws on people could therefore cause quite some injustice, which is why modern societies have adopted a general set of rules to live by that apply to all people, regardless of their beliefs. 

As someone who was born and raised in the Netherlands, I am appalled to see how gay couples are consistently denied their right to express their love for each other by marrying. The fact that some countries are leaving this delicate matter up to the people by holding a referendum, is downright unjust. A fundamental right should not depend on the crowd’s opinion; it should be passed as a law, and immediately!

jerry48
jerry48

and NOW WHAT in the US ??

fatality1515
fatality1515

Vive la France! Stupidity, and human perversion!

I hope they will soon include in the sex education curriculum how you can be a "top", "bottom", or "versatile". In the art class they should teach kids how to cross-dress and how to create and upload videos to xtube for all the homosexuals to enjoy. Also they should teach them in the language class how to properly write a profile to fellow pervs on the craigslist in the "men looking for men" section. We need to prepare our kids to embrace homosexuality, for them to see the equality and tolerance liberalism provides.

My dream, is that in the future we will bring more liberal equality to the lives of pedophiles, polygamists and inter family marriages. Also, since we are all animals, we should embrace bestiality to be equal among all the species.

a11424
a11424

@fatality1515you know a LOT about gay male sex.  interesting...

fatality1515
fatality1515

@a11424

Interesting? Hardly... I have gay/lesbian and bi friends, so I know very well what type of life these people live. That's why I disagree with all this marriage, rights, and equality BS. It's unfortunate that most people who vote for gay rights don't know anything about gays. Typical liberal/lefty stupidity..

PlumbLine
PlumbLine

..........If nations and individuals reject the Light, God just stands aside and lets the corruption of human nature have full sway........

.........Romans 1:28-32.....

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

dudequerky
dudequerky

@PlumbLine Get your Biblical quotes of this web page.  This is a forum for educated discussion, not quoting passages from an ancient book.

RonaldKirchem
RonaldKirchem like.author.displayName 1 Like

Vive la France! Liberte, egailite, fraternite.