France became the fourteenth country on April 23rd to legalize marriage for all couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. As early as June, same-sex weddings can take place.
Socialist President Francois Hollande, campaigned with a promise to endorse marriage equality. Recent polls showed that a majority of the French people favor equal rights for same-sex couples., but the minority continues to let their opinion known.
The bill was protested by the center right Union for a Popular Movement in the streets. Before the Assembly passed the measure, 331-225, there were nightly demonstrations around Parliament resulting in a number of arrests, rioting, and vandalized cars. A protest crowd of 300,000 was estimated in March. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right former National Front leader, said “it was a surprising phenomenon, including for people in power, “to see that the demonstrations concern hundreds of thousands of people.”
Two days before the measure passed, the National Assembly president Claude Bartelone received a letter supposedly containing gun powder. The letter threatened “war” and attacks on Socialist lawmakers if the lower house approved the legislation.
A mass protest took place on May 26th to demand the law’s withdrawal and a gay marriage referendum. In central Paris, tens of thousands of people protested France’s new gay marriage law and adoption. Marchers set off from three separate points across Paris, and by early evening, they filled the Invalides esplanade just across the Seine River from the Champs Elysees. There was a separate, smaller march by conservative Christians in this Catholic country.
Estimates from police number around 150,000 people were in attendance, but march organizers claimed on their Twitter account that the number of demonstrators was close to a million. Because of previous anti-gay marriage protests have seen clashes between far-right protestors and the police, approximately 5,000 police were on duty on May 26th, France’s Mother’s Day.
A recent poll shows many French are losing patience with the protests against the “marriage for all” law that passed on May 18, In general, the demonstrations have been by religious leaders and their followers who oppose gay marriage as well as those who object to the ability of gay married couples to adopt children.
Largely peaceful, nineteen demonstrators were arrested after they climbed onto the headquarters of the Socialist Party and unfurled a banner demanding that President Hollande resign. A van with masks, banners and smoke bombs was seized by police officers. They used tear gas toward the end of the demonstration to break up a gathering of some masked protestors believed to be rightists known as “ultras.”
Perhaps the most violent demonstration was the suicide of an anti-gay activist Dominique Venner at Notre Dame Cathedral’s altar on May 21st.