Tens of thousands of protesters from around France gathered in Paris today for a mass demonstration against gay marriage, a divisive reform French president Francois Hollande has pledged to enact this year.
backed by the Catholic hierarchy, lay activists have mobilised a hybrid
coalition of church-going families, political conservatives, Muslims,
evangelicals and even homosexuals opposed to gay marriage for the show
The noisy march against the reform, which Mr Hollande
promised in his election campaign and has enough votes in parliament to
pass easily, was held in near freezing temperatures.
angered many opponents by trying to slip the reform through parliament
without much public debate and has wavered about some details of the
His clumsy handling of other promises, such as a 75 per cent tax
on the rich that was ruled unconstitutional or his faltering struggle
against rising unemployment, has soured the public mood.
A mass street
protest can hardly help his image.
TV host Virginie Merle, aka
Frigide Barjot, an eccentric comedian leading the so-called "Demo for
All", insists the protest is pro-marriage rather than anti-gay and has
banned all but its approved banners saying a child needs a father and a
mother to develop properly.
Meanwhile, four women from women's
rights group Femen were arrested in St Peter’s Square today after a
topless protest against the Vatican’s opposition to gay marriage.
quickly took the women away, and the pope appeared not to have been
disturbed as he delivered his traditional prayer from his studio window
overlooking the piazza.
On their bare backs, the women had painted
slogans “In Gay We Trust,” and “Shut Up.”
One of them, Inna Shevchenko,
said: “Today we are here to protest against homophobia.”
nuptials are legal in 11 countries including Belgium, Portugal,
Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and South Africa, as well as nine US
states and Washington DC.
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, head of the
Catholic Church in France, spearheaded the opposition with a critical
sermon in August. Other faith leaders - Muslim, Jewish, Protestant and
Orthodox Christian - also spoke out.
They struck a chord with
voters by stressing problems for children that they saw emerging from
same-sex marriage rather than using purely religious arguments against
it or letting the government shape the issue of one only of equal rights
Support for gay nuptials has slipped about 10 points to under
55 per cent and fewer than half the French now want gays to win
Under this pressure, legislators dropped a plan
to also allow lesbians access to artificial insemination, which is now
limited to heterosexual couples with fertility problems.
insist they are not against gays and lesbians, but for traditional
marriage. "We are marriagophile, not homophobe," said Ms Merle, author
of a book entitled Confessions of a Trendy Catholic.
faith leaders will not join the protest, but at least eight Catholic
bishops have said they would march. "I'm happy many Catholics will be
mobilised, but this is not a church demonstration against the
government," said Cardinal Vingt-Trois, who plans to go meet marchers
but not join them.
Opposition leader Jean-Francois Cope and other
conservatives, as well as leaders from the far-right National Front,
will march as private citizens without political banners.
a far-right Catholic group whose protests have been openly anti-gay,
plans a rival march that will run parallel to one of the "Demo for All"
columns. Organisers say they will have about 10,000 volunteer marshals
to keep order.