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Same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions In France

Part 7: 2013-APR to JUN: Parliament approves bill.
Constitutionality unsuccessfully challenged. Bill
becomes law. Suicide triggered. Rise in gay bashing.

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This topic continues from the previous essay

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2013-APR-23: French parliament approves same-sex marriage bill:

Just before the final vote on the SSM bill, Herve Mariton a member of the opposition UMP party, said:

"You are adding a crisis to a crisis. You are stirring up tensions and are lighting the fuse of homophobia."

At the final vote for the SSM bill. it was passed by a vote of 321 to 225. As the results were tabulated, hundreds of protestors opposed to marriage equality demonstrated outside the National Assembly building in Paris. Two protestors made it into the National Assembly, and unsuccessfully tried to unfurl a banner calling for a referendum. They were quickly ejected. BBC News reports:

"Thousands of police armed with water cannon were deployed near parliament to deal with any repeat of the violence seen on the fringes of previous demonstrations. Although rallies opposing the change have been overwhelmingly peaceful, there have been some clashes, blamed on far-right elements."

One of the best known protestor is a comedienne: Frigide Barjot. She said:

"We are going to show them that this is not over. I solemnly ask the president to hold a referendum on the subject."

The results of a referendum could be predicted in advance, since numerous surveys have shown that 55% to 60% of the adults in France favor SSM.

Some LGBT and human rights groups were calling APR-23 the "Day of Love."

A number of news outlets announced that France has actually legalized same-sex marriage as a result of the passage of this bill by Parliament. These include Metronews, the Globe and Mail in Canada, and Yahoo! news for the UK and Ireland. But the country was not exactly there yet. Two steps remain before the bill becomes law: First, it must be reviewed by the Constitutional Council. Members of the parliament who oppose marriage equality, including those from the UMP party, will attempt to convince the Council that marriage equality is a constitutional matter, and thus Parliament cannot merely pass a law legalizing it. They are not expected to succeed. Then, it must be signed into law by the Socialist President Francois Hollande. Justice Minister Christiane Taubira says that same-sex marriages may begin in June. She told the National Assembly:

""Many French people will be proud this job is done. Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds. ... We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they'll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families.

One protestor, Claire Baron, 41, a mother of two, said that she:

"... will oppose the bill until the end. .., I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad."

This is a very common belief among religious and social conservatives. However, few seem to consider the plight of children in a family led by a same-sex couple who are not allowed to marry. Children and parents would probably want -- and would benefit from -- the status, protections, and other benefits of marriage. But in many political jurisdictions, the parents are considered "legal strangers" -- as mere roommates.

Sylvain Rouzel, 39, said:

"I feel immense joy, gigantic joy. At last, everyone has the same rights. This is huge! France was lagging behind. We had to wait 14 years after the civil union to finally obtain the right to get married, with equal rights for everyone. I feel great!"

Evan Wolfson is president of the American equal marriage group Freedom to Marry. The group worked with French advocates on the bill. He said:

"The controversy that we’ve seen has been a stoked and manipulated controversy that’s really kind of a last-ditch attempt to block the tide of history. I don’t think it spoke to a deep or wide opposition among the French people."

Hossein Alizadeh, a coordinator with the American International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission said:

"The opposition is in a weakened position, but they know which buttons to press in order to get a reaction in society, in a country as liberal as France, where nobody thought it was an issue."

Elizabeth Ronzier, head of Associations SOS Homophobie, has found homophobic and transphobic assaults increased by 30% in 2012 compared to those in 2011. She said:

"And in the two months to the end of February this year, we received the same amount of testimonies that we would normally get over an interval of six months."

Four days after the vote, a same-sex wedding fair opened in Paris. "His and his" wedding cake decorations, same-sex wedding rings, gay-friendly wedding photographers, wedding invitation cards, etc. were displayed. 1

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2013-MAY-17 & 18: The final steps to achieve marriage equality in France:

As expected, the right-wing opposition UMP party attempted to have the marriage equality bill declared unconstitutional by challenging it in the Constitutional Court. On MAY-17, also as expected, the court found the bill to be valid. They ruled that same-sex marriage:

"... did not run contrary to any constitutional principles,"

and that it did not infringe on:

"... basic rights, or liberties, or national sovereignty."

Perhaps intentionally, or perhaps coincidentally, the court's ruling was issued on World Day Against Homophobia!

The following day, Francois Hollande signed the bill into law, saying: "I have taken [the decision]; now it is time to respect the law of the Republic."

The bill becomes effective ten days later on 2013-MAY-29 -- just in time for June weddings. 2

As expected, the signing of the law triggered anti-SSM demonstrations. However the BBC stated that the demonstration involved "scores of protestors." Previous protests have involved hundreds of thousands of demonstrators.

Another anti-SSM demonstration is scheduled for MAY-26.

France became the ninth country in Europe and the 15th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Most of western Europe, and the Scandinavian countries have now attained marriage equality. This includes Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. The French law allows same-sex married couples to adopt, but there is no provision for in-vitro fertilization or surrogate motherhood. 3,4,5

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2013-MAY-21: Man commits suicide, perhaps because of the SSM law:

A man identified as Dominique Venner, 78, entered the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, walked up to the altar, placed a letter there, pulled out a shotgun, shot himself in the head, and died. There were about 1,500 visitors in the Cathedral at the time who were quickly cleared out. Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral's rector, said:

"It's unfortunate, it's dramatic, it's shocking. The motives for the suicide, and the contents of the man's letter, were unclear."

The suicide letter allegedly said:

"I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us. I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences."

Harlem Desir, the head of the ruling Socialist Party said:

"The bill has been approved and opponents of marriage for everyone need to understand that it is now the law of the Republic."

Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right wing National Front issued the following rather ambiguous tweet:

"All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France. It is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself."

In Venner's blog, he describes himself as as a historian and essayist. It describes his unsuccessful activities fighting against the law legalizing same-sex marriage in the country. The bill was signed into law three days previous to the suicide. It would appear that his and other protestors' failure to preserve marriage inequality in the country triggered the suicide. He simply could not tolerate having to continue living in a country that attained marriage equality. 6,7

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2013-MAY-26: Massive demonstration against SSM turns violent:

A massive demonstration against the new same-sex marriage law attracted an estimated 150,000 protestors to the Esplanade des Invalides across the Seine River from the Champs Elysees. OnTopMag.com reported that more than an hour after the main demonstration, when most of the protestors had dispersed, some 200 activists attacked riot police, TV camera crews and press photographers using bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. The police arrested 98 allegedly violent demonstrators. 8

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2013-MAY-29: The first French same-sex marriage solemnized:

Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became to the first same-sex couple to marry under France's marriage law. 500 guests attended the ceremony. 200 journalists covered the wedding. 9

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2013-JUN-05: Gay rights campaigner beaten and left brain-dead:

Clément Méric, 18, was violently attacked by a group of three far-right members of the JNR party. The democratic socialist party issued a statement:

"The horror of fascism has just killed right in the middle of Paris.

Violently beaten to the ground by a group of activists from the extreme right, manifestly from the group JNR (Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire), left motionless, he was declared this evening to be in a state of brain death at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris."

Serge Ayoub, the leader of JNR, Serge Ayoub, has denied his group’s involvement in the attack.

A major rise in the frequency of physical attacks of gays has been seen throughout France, apparently by the far right reactubg ti legislation that allows same-sex couples to marry. 10

 

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "France's first same-sex marriage fair opens its doors," video, Reuters, 2013-APR-27, at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  2. "France gay marriage: Hollande signs bill into law," BBC, 2013-MAY-18, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  3. "Same-sex marriage: French parliament approves new law," BBC News, 2013-APR-23, at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/
  4. Nicholas Vinocur, "French parliament allows gay marriage despite protests," Reuters, 2013-APR-23, at: http://uk.news.yahoo.com/
  5. Lori Hinnant & Sylvie Corbet, "French protest against gay marriage turns violent," Associated Press, Reuters, 2013-APR-23, at:http://metronews.ca/
  6. "Visitors evacuate after suicide at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral," Associated Press, 2013-MAY-21, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  7. "Suicide on Paris cathedral altar stirs France's far right," CBC News, 2013-MAY-22, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  8. OnTopMag.com. "Activists arrested In Paris protesting gay marriage," 2013-MAY-27, at: http://chicago.gopride.com/
  9. Drew Schmenner, "Same-sex marriage: First couple weds in France ...," MyDesert.com, 2013-MAY-29, at: http://voices.mydesert.com/
  10. Scott Roberts, "France: Gay rights campaigner, 18, left brain dead after far-right attack," Pink News, 2013-JUN-06, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-APR-24
Latest updated: 2013-JUN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson
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