Same-sex marriage bill advances in France
On Wednesday, November 7, the cabinet of socialist President François Hollande approved a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in France as well as allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The draft law redefines marriage to include same-sex couples and replaces the words “father” and “mother” with “parents.” Such a bill was promised by President Hollande during his campaign this spring, and since both houses of Parliament are controlled by his socialist party, the bill is expected to be passed sometime in January.
However, this action has met with considerable opposition in France, coming from representatives of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities as well as a group of over 1,000 mayors throughout the country. Interestingly, religious figures, including Cardinal André Vingt-Trois and Chief Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim, have largely appealed to social, not religious arguments against the law. The Cardinal has called the law a “deception” and argues for “defend[ing] the right of children to build their personality with reference to the man and the woman who gave them life.” Other opposition groups object that passing such a law will effectively lead to legalizing polygamy and that it will disrupt the very foundation of French society: the family. One compromise found in the bill is its continued exclusion of same-sex couples from state-funded artificial insemination, which is subsidized by the state for couples of opposite sexes. The UMP, the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, has spoken in strong opposition to the law, with one politician calling it the “end of the family, the end of children’s development, the end of education,” and “an enormous danger to the nation.”
The current debate in France about same-sex marriage echoes across Europe and the European Union. Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in eleven countries in the EU, including the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. In many other countries (including France), partnerships or civil unions are legal, granting same-sex couples limited rights. Spain recently affirmed its commitment to marriage equality as it upheld its law protecting same-sex marriage after the conservative Popular Party appealed its ratification in 2005. Here, too, the government’s decision has met with strong opposition from the Catholic Church. In another post, we have talked about the most LGBT-friendly countries in Europe; France currently ranks in the lower half.
With Tuesday’s election in the US resulting in two more states legalizing same-sex marriage, it seems the trend towards marriage equality is slowly making its way around the world. Yet the slow pace is too slow for many. In a world increasingly concerned with safeguarding human rights, gender equality seems to have largely stagnated in many levels of Western society. We have to wonder how unimaginable this oppression will one day appear to history.