French President François Hollande signed a law Saturday authorizing marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. This act ended months of nationwide protests and debate.
Hollande, a Socialist, signed the controversial bill only a day after a challenge to the law was struck down by the government’s constitutional Council. They ruled that same-sex marriages and adoptions were in line with France’s constitution.
Legalizing gay marriage was one of Hollande’s campaign pledges last year.
Although polls for years have shown the majority of France’s population support for gay marriage, adoption by same-sex couples is more controversial.
Parliamentary debate highlighted the differences between France’s rural population, who hold more conservative and traditional opinions about marriage, and the viewpoints of the more liberal population of Paris.
A rise in attacks on homosexuals as the parliamentary debate was underway was reported by gay rights groups. Organizers of the protest movement against the proposed bill distanced themselves from the troublemakers.
Despite nation-wide protests, the law passed easily in both houses of parliament.
The opposition plans a protest May 26. Though the law passed and was signed by Hollande, the opposition was bolstered by the public support it got. They want to extend the success of the anti-gay marriage movement into one that also targets Hollande.
Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the opposition UMP party, is expected to attend the protest. The vocal opposition to Hollande has been torn by internal divisions and has somewhat lost its sense of direction since Nicolas Sarkozy lost the presidency last year.
One same-sex couple already signed up Saturday to get married on May 29 in the gay-friendly southern French city of Montpellier.
Vincent Autin, one of the future newlyweds, said on France-Info radio: “We’re very happy that today we can finally talk of love after all the talk of legislation and political battles.”
French law requires that couples must register to marry in city hall. Then, they must wait at least 10 days before holding a ceremony. That time period gives anyone objecting to the union — such as an existing spouse — time to intervene and halt the proceedings.
The marriage industry is a big business that pumps a lot of money into France’s economy. Already, preparations are being made to create lesbian and gay cake toppers, his-and-his wedding bands, and other services for France’s gay weddings.
Here, in the United States, Minnesota last week became the 12th state in the country to legalize same-sex unions and similar legislation is being considered in several other states, including Illinois.
Thousands of people in Belgium took part in an annual gay pride march Saturday, strolling down the confetti-covered streets of Brussels. They were cheering crowds along the route of the gay parade march, and trucks blasted music and carried dance floors for participants to demonstrate their dance moves on.
Belgium legalized gay marriage 10 years ago and permitted adoption for same-sex couples seven years ago. They were one of Europe’s first countries to do so.
Written by: Douglas Cobb