French government to back gay marriage


The French government is expected to approve a draft law to legalise gay marriage tomorrow amid an intensifying campaign against the plan by Catholic bishops and the right-French presidenwing opposition.

François Hollande has promised that laws introducing same-sex marriage and adoption will be enacted by mid-2013 and believes he can count on an alliance of the left, centrists and right-wing social liberals for a large majority. If the law were to pass, France would become the 12th country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.

On the eve of the draft legislation going to cabinet, however, a prominent Paris cardinal denounced gay marriage as a “sham”, while the UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy urged the government to slow down the process.

Opinion polls show that up to two-thirds of French voters back homosexuals’ right to marry, but they are split on allowing gay couples to adopt.

The Catholic Church has grown more vocal in its opposition since Pope Benedict XVI last month urged French bishops to oppose the Bill. Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, who is head of the bishops’ conference, told pilgrims in Lourdes on Sunday that legalising same-sex marriage would be a “sham” that would undermine one of the pillars of society.

“It will not be ‘marriage for all’,” he said. “It will be the marriage of a few imposed on all.”

The Catholic Church and France’s Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Buddhist religious minorities have been especially severe in criticising the provisions for gay adoption and assisted procreation.

Some Socialist deputies have expressed doubts about including these provisions in the law to legalise gay marriage and it was not clear yesterday if the draft text would include them.

Protests planned

Lay Catholic groups organised protests in 75 cities around France last month and plan more in mid-November.

Although he encouraged Catholics to join in, Cardinal Vingt-Trois said it was not his role to lead a street protest.

Some conservative politicians have spoken out in favour of a large street protest in Paris, and some mayors, the main officials who celebrate civil marriages, have said they would not preside over ceremonies for gay couples.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen has called for a referendum on the government’s proposals, while Jean-François Copé, one of two candidates to succeed Mr Sarkozy as head of the UMP, urged the government to postpone the draft Bill. It was “incredibly badly prepared. There was no dialogue,” he said.

Polls show public backing for the gay marriage plan has slipped several points since religious leaders began their campaign against the Bill – prompting a sharp backlash against the bishops by senior Socialists.