friday, 12 april of 2013

French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage

Gay marriage

French Senate Approves Same-Sex Marriage

French lawmakers have approved a bill allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children, fulfilling an election promise made by President François Hollande that had faced strong opposition from conservative groups.

The French Senate approved the bill by a show of hands on Friday, making France the 13th country to legalize gay marriage, after Uruguay took a similar step Thursday.

"This law will allow gay people to no longer be clandestine in their families and in the Republic," Family Minister Dominique Bertinotti said in the Senate.

The bill will formally become law in the coming months, once Parliament has reviewed a number of minor, technical amendments.

The vote delivers a major electoral pledge of Mr. Hollande at a time when his popularity is at record lows and his Socialist-led government is struggling to contain a tax-fraud scandal involving a former budget minister.

The government signaled Friday it wanted to proceed at full speed on the adoption of the bill. Alain Vidalies, minister for relations with Parliament, said the text will go back to the National Assembly as soon as next week, bringing the second reading forward from May 20, when the debate was originally set to start.

"The government is trying to surf the wave," said Jean Chiche, a politics professor at Sciences-Po, a Paris-based university. "But the current climate in France makes it a risky bet."

Christian Jacob, the head of opposition UMP lawmakers, said that by rushing the approval of the bill, Mr. Hollande was running the risk of a violent confrontation with the French people.

Still, the debate inside and outside Parliament has exposed deep divisions in France. While many conservatives said same-sex marriage would destabilize the value of the traditional family unit, several gay-rights groups complained that Mr. Hollande's bill doesn't go far enough because it doesn't legalize medically assisted procreation for gay couples.

Opinion polls initially showed that a majority of French people backed the idea of authorizing same-sex marriage but that support gradually dwindled as opponents of gay marriage flexed their muscles, staging several large protests around the country.

Support for adoption was 60% in 2011, slipped to 53% in the summer of 2012 and was slightly above 50% when the government approved the draft bill in early November, according to polling institute Ifop.

CSA, another pollster, said that support for adoption rights for same-sex couples now stands at 41%, compared with around 48% in December.

Many respondents cited legalizing adoption for gay couples as a reason to oppose the overall bill.

Even though the bill is now certain to become law, opponents aren't giving up and planning another protest march next month.

"You're disrupting the civil code," Jean-Claude Lenoir, a senator with the UMP opposition party, said Friday ahead of the final vote in the upper house of Parliament. "Traditional family is the main pillar of society."

Those in favor were relieved the law had finally been passed, but said they were shocked about the virulent debate it had generated.

"We expected opposition, but not to that extent," said Dominique Boren, vice president of the Association of Gay and Lesbian Parents. "We've heard things about homosexuals we hadn't heard in over 30 years."

Gay rights groups want Mr. Hollande to take a further step and legalize medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples, a measure the government decided not to include in the bill approved by the Senate Friday.

The government has said medically assisted procreation—currently only allowed for heterosexual couples—would be debated as part of an overhaul of family law to be presented to parliament before the end of the year. It has deferred the matter to the country's national ethics council, which is due to issue an opinion in the fall. The government said it stick to the council's advice when drafting the family bill.

But militants think Mr. Hollande, whose approval rate has tanked, doesn't have enough political strength to back a measure that would be even more controversial in a majority catholic country.

"After the ugly debate we saw over the past months, I think the government will bury this project," said Caroline Mecary, a French lawyer specialized on family law and a gay right campaigner. "Few governments solve all issues at the same time."

(Published by The Wall Street Journal – April 12, 2013)

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