Gay marriage legalized in France, riots erupt
By M.K. Volatile
France legalized gay marriage last week, giving same-sex couples the right to adopt and have surrogate mothers. The landmark legislation also brought protests and riots throughout the country.
Although civil unions have been legal in France since 1999, the controversy over the new law has ignited a flame of resistance in those who oppose same-sex parents. The New York Times reported that “opponents have deplored what they call a threat to the foundations of French society and an injustice for children who will be raised by parents of the same sex.”
The marriage bill has divided France politically between more secular citizens and religious ones.
Although leaders of the proponents of same-sex marriage have insisted on peaceful demonstrations, the controversial legislation has resulted in rioting and violence.
The Huffington Post reported that one of the larger protests “ended in blasts of tear gas, as right-wing rabble-rousers, some in masks and hoods, led the charge against police, damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and making a break for the presidential palace.”
Violent protests are accented by an increased brutality against gay couples and the gay community. For example, the Huffington Post reports that Wilfred de Bruijn was attacked in central Paris with his partner. The homophobic act left Bruijn with five fractures in his head and face and a lost tooth. Bruijn uploaded the photo to Facebook stating that he bore “the face of homophobia.”
Additionally, a gay bar was terrorized. The Huffington Post said the four suspects “clearly belonged to the extreme right movement” and are accused of intentionally targeting gay customers in the bar, punching the bar manager and causing material damage to the bar.
However, the violent acts of homophobia and protests do not support popular opinion. PolicyMic, a public poll taken last June, reported “63% of the French people were in favor of same-sex marriage, and 55% also supported adoption rights. Although opponents of the marriage bill are in the minority, they are extremely organized. More than 45,000 people attended a rally against same-sex marriage in Paris before the bill was passed.”
The main point of contingency for opponents of same-sex marriage is the ability of same-sex couples to become parents.
“I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in,” French protester and mother Claire Baron said in The Huffington Post. “The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad.”
Leaders of protests have explicitly stated that they are not acting out of homophobia, but out of desire to preserve the nuclear family. The New York Times states, “Opponents have deplored what they call a threat to the foundations of French society and an injustice for children who will be raised by parents of the same sex.”
Nevertheless, proponents are thrilled that the new legislation has passed. They believe the marriage bill is a step toward greater civil equality.
According to The Huffington Post, after the bill was passed, Sylvain Rouzel, a member of the gay and lesbian community was excited about the landmark decision.,
“At last, everyone has the same rights,” Rouzel said. “This is huge! France was lagging behind. We had to wait 14 years after the civil union to finally obtain the right to get married, with equal rights for everyone. I feel great!”
The United States is home to a similar ideological dichotomy; however, opponents of same-sex marriage primarily use legislation rather than protests as a vehicle to their perceived political rights.
Although there is organized opposition to same-sex marriage, it appears that the United States is undergoing a shift in public opinion toward same-sex marriage.
CNN reports that fifty three percent of Americans support same-sex marriage.
Some people in the USD community think that similar change is coming for the US.
Dr. Julia Cantzler, Professor of Sociology at USD believes social change is afoot in the US.
“While I can’t speak to the specific position of Catholics in France, we do know that, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, fifty four percent of US Catholics support the legalization of same-sex marriage,” Cantzler said. “So, this reflects a clear trend in public opinion toward greater support of same-sex marriage across various religious and demographic categories.”
Students at USD fall on both sides of the issue.
Sophomore Brennan Vance thinks that the position of the French protesters holds some merit, though he has some qualms.
“It is definitely an advantage to grow up in a house with a male and female because the society we live in has definite and clear gender roles,” Vance said. “That’s not to say it should stay that way, but regardless of whether or not someone thinks gender roles in society are good or bad, they exist and someone growing up in an environment which gives examples of those gender roles surely has a better chance of thriving in society.”
An anonymous female junior agreed that the dynamic of having a father and mother is advantageous to a child’s development.
“I do believe that a mother and a father…fulfill different roles, both of which are important for a child,” the student said. “In this way, I do believe the best situation for a child is to not lack either a father or a mother, which would include single parent households as well.”
Nevertheless, sophomore Diana Tenenbaum disagrees with the position of the French protesters.
“I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with same-sex couples adopting children,” Tenenbaum said. “If anything, I think the fact that same-sex couples can adopt kids would influence me more to vote for same-sex marriage because that means that there will be less children in need of a family.”
She went on to say that the new French legislation should be a model for the US in the coming years.
“I think it is really sad that same-sex marriage isn’t legal everywhere, especially in the United States,” Tenenbaum said. “In a country that emphasizes equal rights for all, the fact that there still isn’t equality under the law for everyone in the United States is shocking and ridiculous.”
Whether France’s legalization of gay marriage is an isolated event in the world or the sign of a greater worldwide trend remains to be seen, but the debate in the US will likely rage on.