France: Parliamentary debate over equal marriage begins

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Following months of debate and controversy over the issue of equal marriage and gay adoption, proposals to allow it went before the French parliament today.

The proposed laws would legalise equal marriage, and therefore allow gay couples to adopt children, through legal marriage status.

In what was perceived as an attempt to appease opponents to the bill, the government dropped medically assisted reproduction for lesbian couples, from the country’s upcoming bill to legalise marriage equality.

It also dropped other areas of the bill, which redefined marriage as “contracted between two persons of different sex or of the same sex”.

The debate over the bill is expected to be heated, as deputies opposed have tabled 5,000 amendments, however that is not expected to hinder its progress, and it is expected to pass.

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.

An Ifop poll on Saturday showed a rise in support for equal marriage, which had risen to 63%.

Starting late in 2012, there have been several large-scale demonstrations both for and against equal marriage.

On Sunday, as many as a quarter of a million people gathered in the French cities of Paris and Lyon to support plans to introduce same-sex marriage equality.

The previous week, a ‘March for All’ attracted an estimated 340,000 to 800,000 people to the Champs-de-Mars to oppose marriage equality. The organisers were handed a €100,000 bill to clean up the area by the city’s gay mayor.

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.

On 7 November 2012, French President Francois Hollande’s government approved the 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”.

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

Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of the French President, showed her support for moves to make marriage equal by announcing that she will be a witness at one of the first same-sex marriages.

After the two-week debate, the parliament is expected to vote on the measure in coming weeks.
President Hollande made an election campaign pledge to extend full marriage rights to gay couples.