Nearly a half million opponents of equality in France marched last weekend to voice their disapproval over promised legislation from President Francois Hollande that would extend marriage and adoption rights to all families.
Catholic opposition to equality legislation was central to the mass mobilization. A Reuters article covering last weekend’s protests highlighted the religious coalition of Christians, Jews, and Muslims participating, but especially highlighted the Catholic core:
“While the Catholic hierarchy kept a low profile, about 30 lay associations – including large ones representing Catholic families and right-to-life activists – and local parishes provided crucial logistical backbone for the protest.”
Protesters cited recent comments by French ministers supporting equal rights and reemphasizing the separation of church and state in France as an impetus to march. Important were the comments by Education Minister Vincent Peillon, reported in Queerty:
“Last month, Eric de Labarre, secretary-general of France’s Catholic school system—which educates about one-fifth of the country’s children—sent a letter to school heads urging them to discuss same-sex marriage and adoption in the classroom.
“Peillon fired back with a strongly worded missive:
“‘It doesn’t seem appropriate to bring the debate over equal marriage rights into schools. I have the deepest respect for the Catholic school system. But, the institution, which is under contract with the state, must respect the principle that everyone has the right to a neutral and free thought.’”
President Hollande supported these comments, naming this neutrality one of the Republican values upon which France is governed. Hollande’s government reiterated its determined support for marriage legislation after the protests. Women’s affairs minister and spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said:
“‘The government is totally determined to achieve this reform, this historic progress that is not the victory of one camp over another but progress for the whole society,’ she said.
“‘We take note of the demonstration (but) this will be discussed in parliament and not in the street.’”
Bondings 2.0 previously reported on the intensifying debate in France over marriage equality and LGBT rights. Links to those stories are provided below and we will continue coverage as the the legislation is introduced into French parliament in the next several weeks.
December 26, 2012: French Catholic Magazine Supports Marriage Equality
November 19, 2012: Paris Marriage Protests Turn All Kinds Of Ugly
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry