France: 340,000 protest against equal marriage rights in Paris

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of Paris protest against the country’s upcoming bill which would allow equal marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

Authorities previously estimated that on Sunday evening, 120,000 people took to the streets of Paris to protest, but have now placed the figure closer to 340,000. Organisers of the protest had estimated numbers at 800,000, many protesters coming in to Paris for the event, the BBC reports.

Demonstrators carried placards which read “We don’t want your law, Francois” and “Don’t touch my civil code”. Three big marches were converging on the Champs de Mars, next to the Eiffel Tower.

The anti-equal marriage movement in France, which organised the rally, hoped to bring out 200,000 demonstrators, and found an unlikely leader in a comedian who denied that she was anti-gay.

On 7 November, French President Francois Hollande’s government approved a bill to legalise equal marriage and allow gay couples to adopt.  

When he approved the bill, the same day that three US states – MaineMaryland and Washington – legalised equal marriage, President Hollande told his cabinet that it would mean “progress not only for individuals but for the whole of society”.

Polls show a majority of French voters support marriage equality, but it has divided the country’s left and right, with lawmakers from the conservative UMP denouncing the measure.

The President had previously conceded that the religious opponents of his equal marriage plans were proving to be “tough” to deal with.

In November, thousands of pro-equality demonstrators turned up to rally at the National Assembly in Paris, to show support for equal marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

The reform, opposed by more than 1,000 mayors and France’s Catholic Church, will be debated by parliament later this month.

On Wednesday it was announced that the ruling Socialist government had dropped medially assisted reproduction for lesbian couples, from the country’s upcoming equal marriage bill.

A University study estimated that around 2,000 French lesbians couples have travelled to Belgium each year, in order to conceive babies, through artificial insemination to avoid the ban on them receiving the practice in France.

Friday, a YouGov poll reported that a majority of people in several European countries believed that same-sex couples should be allowed to get married and adopt children, but that in France the public is divided.

At the Vatican today, a Ukrainian feminist group demonstrated topless at St Peter’s Square for gay rights, as Pope Benedict XVI gave his weekly prayer.