French parliament to debate gay marriage Bill


After months of bitter political wrangling and some of the biggest street protests of the past decade, France’s parliament will today begin debating a plan to give gay couples the right to marry and adopt children.

President François Hollande has a comfortable majority and says he is determined to enact the landmark law, but a campaign led by conservative parties and religious groups has dented public support and forced deputies to abandon a proposal to allow lesbian couples access to artificial insemination.

A rally by opponents of the marriage plan in Paris earlier this month attracted some of the largest crowds for any predominantly right-wing cause in many years, with police putting turnout at 340,000 and organisers claiming the figure was closer to one million.


Mr Hollande’s Socialist Party now faces its toughest parliamentary battle since wresting control of the National Assembly, France’s lower house, from the right last June. Opposition deputies have tabled more than 5,000 amendments to the draft law and hope to use the two-week debate to inflict damage on the president on an issue he has tried to keep at arm’s length as it has grown more contentious in recent months.


France already allows civil unions between same-sex couples and Mr Hollande made an election campaign pledge to extend their rights. His reluctance to take a lead role in championing his reform, and the government’s willingness to drop the artificial insemination plan, have angered some left-wing parties and advocacy groups, however. Noël Mamère, a prominent Green politician, has accused the Élysée Palace of “capitulation”.

Support for gay marriage has slipped about 10 percentage points since opponents began to campaign against it late last year, but surveys this week suggest recent campaigning by advocates of the reform is having an effect. An eve-of-debate rally by supporters of gay marriage in Paris on Sunday was attended by 125,000 people, police said, while organisers put the turnout at 400,000.

On Saturday an Ifop poll showed a rise in support for same-sex marriage to 63 per cent. Support for adoption rights for gay couples rose by 3 percentage points, although the country remains divided on it, with 49 per cent in favour.