After more than 100 hours of debate, the National Assembly passed the SSM bill that would create access to marriage and adoption for same-sex couples. The vote was 329 to 229 -- a 59/41% vote in favor. This degree of support matches that of the general French public as determined by past public opinion polls. Past polls have indicated 55 to 60% support among adults. However, only about 50% support exists for adoption by loving, committed same-sex couples.
As expected, opposition came from social conservatives, Roman Catholics, evangelical Christians and Muslims. MPs opposed to the bill promoted about 5,000 amendments in an effort to delay the vote!
Before the vote on FEB-12, Christiane Taubira, the French justice minister said:
"We've waged a great and noble battle."
The French press has described the bill as France's most important social reform legislation since the abolition of the death penalty in 1981.
The bill now passes to the Senate where it is scheduled to be voted upon on APR-02. Because the Socialist Party and their allies are in control of both the National Assembly and Senate, it is expected to pass in the Senate as well. The bill was expected to become law during 2013-MAY or JUN. 1
2013-MAR-24: Massive crowd demonstrates against SSM bill:
Hundreds of thousands of anti-SSM demonstrators assembled near the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday. Some held signs like "Donít touch marriage, take care of unemployment!" and "Everyone is born from a man and a woman." The police estimated that 300,000 protesters were involved, some 40,000 fewer than a similar rally in January. Organizers estimated the crowd at 1.4 million.
Conservative Roman Catholic, Muslim and Jewish religious leaders actively oppose the bill. A major concern is that same-sex couples might be given rights equal to those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples to adopt children and to access artificial insemination. Another fear is that surrogate motherhood may be approved for male same-sex couples.
A comfortable majority of French adults favor same-sex marriage.
2013-APR-09: Senate approves main article in the SSM bill:
The Senate considered a series of amendments to the SSM bill. One would have created a system of civil unions. All were rejected. Late in the evening the Senate passed a key article in the bill that deals with eligibility to marry and adoption rights. They passed a section that defines marriage as a union between:
"... two individuals of different sex or the same sex."
The vote was 179 to 157. Members of the conservative UPM party and the more centrist UDI party mainly voted against the section.
Wilfred de Bruijn, a gay man, was attacked by a gang of homophobes during the lead up to the Senate debate. He was walking with his boyfriend near his home and was beaten unconscious, suffering five fractures to his head and face, abrasions, and a missing tooth.
His boyfriend heard three or four men shouting "Hey, look; they're gays." He was also beaten up.
Facebook photo of Wilfred de Bruijn
De Bruijn's photograph went viral. He told the Associated Press:
"What (the anti-gay marriage campaign) are saying is that they're not homophobic: lesbians and gays are nice people, but don't let them get close to children Ė- that's very dangerous. It's OK for them to live together, but not like other couples with the same protection because it's not really the same thing. These people are all professionals of the spoken word. They know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are inferior human beings. Of course it will have a result."
Comedienne Frigide Barjot, unofficial leader of those opposed to marriage equality said:
"We don't want violence. We denounce this violence and these acts. We have nothing to do with fundamentalists or extremists."
To which De Bruijn responded:
It was not Frigide Barjot who was hitting my head, or the [Roman Catholic] bishop of Avignon lurking in that street to attack us. But they are responsible."
The attack motivated 30 gay-positive groups to sponsor an anti-homophobia rally as a protest against the much higher level of anti-gay violence. 2
2013-APR-12: Senate passes SSM bill:
The final wording of the SSM bill was approved by the Senate. The bill will now return to the National Assembly for final approval.
France's justice minister, Christine Taubira, has been one of the strongest supporters of the bill. She said the reform recognizes that many children are already living with same-sex parents and deserve the same protections afforded children of opposite-sex parents. She said:
"These are children that scrape their knees, eat too much candy, don't like broccoli, drive you crazy... we protect them. ... [The reform will] move our institutions towards ever more freedom, equality and personal respect." 3,4
Senator Jean-Pierre Raffarin from the UMP party opposes the bill. He said:
"The parliamentary process continues so we will keep talking with the French people who seem to change their position. So nothing is definitive and the debate continues." 3
The differences between the Senate and Assembly bills are minor, and passage of the bill is expected in the National Assembly without difficulty.
Sadly, the Associated Press reports that:
"A gay rights watchdog group says that the number of reported homophobic acts has risen in France in recent weeks, amid nationwide protests over a bill under parliamentary debate that would legalize gay marriage." 4