Legalizing homosexual marriage in France

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender  (LGBT) rights in France, have been seen as traditionally liberal and some of the most advanced in Europe and worldwide.

After granting same-sex couples domestic partnership benefits known as the civil solidarity, in 1999, the actual French president Francois Hollande signed a bill, In May 2013, that made France the 14th country in the world to open marriage to same-sex couples.

For many, these events did not come as a surprise. After all, France considers itself the cradle of human rights and civil liberties, where secularism is as important as the idea of universal suffrage, and where socialists have long had a stronghold.

Hundreds of thousands protest started in Paris and all France to protest gay marriage. This came at the tail end of an anti-gay rights movement that had grown into full force over the spring, and reach more than 1M protesters. While the Parliament squabbled over the footnotes of the bill, masses protested the idea of it. And as it became clear that the bill would pass, the opposition grew more ferocious: homophobic violence, illegal protests and scuffles with the police became a near daily occurrence.

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The French LGBT community responded by organizing marches and rallies as well, often on the same day, and rapidly calling attention to threats or violence. When the gay marriage bill was finally passed this May, Green Member of Parliament Noël Mamère said, “This is not a historical day; France is merely catching up,” which summed up the general sentiment among supporters that it would inevitably pass sooner or later. 

When Hollande ran for president in 2012, it was one of his more prominent agenda items. The socialist candidate’s project of “mariage pour tous” (marriage for all) to give the homosexual the same status as heterosexual couples under adoption and inheritance laws. Hollande even promised to open artificial insemination to single women and lesbians, though he dropped this last point when it set off a whole new level of controversy.

While this spring did in fact reveal the dark, bigoted underbelly of French society, it also shed light on the strength of the democratic process: while an unlucky combination of timing and context can throw a wrench in the fight for gay rights, the democratic ideal of equal treatment under the law is difficult to deny.

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