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Devastating Plot Twist in France's road to Marriage Equality?

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




By socialist politician François Hollande being elected President in May of this year, France's hopes for marriage equality had been met with strong promises. But due to the French political system, we knew a socialist majority in parliament would be needed if France were to stand any chance of easily passing a marriage equality bill into law. The parliament was indeed elected with a socialist majority.

So it seemed any gay marriage bill would face few obstacles, yet it may (indirectly), and same-sex marriage might not happen for a long time yet.

This article might be a little skeptic of me, but it covers a very possible plot twist in France's road to marriage equality.

In recent weeks, many French local and national politicians have spoken out against Hollande's plans to allow same-sex couples to adopt and to have the right to marry. Living in the country, I've naturally been following the news very closely recently. Some of them have played the usual cards, others were more original in their comments, like Christian Estrosi who called the government's plans "a diversion worthy of a Las Vegas show" last week, and others, like François Fillion (the former Prime Minister) have said they don't support it because they have "the security of children" in their best interests.

One of the attacks was somewhat hard to understand. Christine Boutin, President of the Christian Democratic Party (Parti chrétien démocrate), called for a referendum on gay marriage instead of the government "imposing" it on the population, back in September. That seems more than unlikely, and if it were to happen, questions would have to be asked. Why won't it happen? Because gay marriage was an explicit part of Hollande's program when he was a presidential candidate. It wasn't something that was hidden, it was written it big letters at the top of the homepage of his website from day one of his program being announced. A vote for Hollande was a vote for marriage equality. Since when did we start voting a President into office and then voting on his program? When you vote for a President, you're voting for his program. It seems like pretty basic politics to me, obviously not for you Mrs. Boutin, who seems to be completely detached from reality anyway.

In response to the attacks, Hollande announced a draft law would be drawn up for review by ministers on October 31st. The bill, if passed into law, sounds as if it would be one of the best marriage equality bills in the world. It hasn't been drawn up yet, but the Parti socialiste (PS) has hinted it will include equal adoption rights and possibly a chance of Medically Assisted Procreation, but we'll see what exactly the law is likely to contain at the end of the month. With a socialist President and a socialist parliament, not a lot will get in the way.

Luckily the Christian Democratic Party has little to no voice in French politics, and it's a voice that's growing ever-quieter. However, the voices speaking out against Hollande are getting louder, and it's not necessarily to do with same-sex marriage. Polls over the last 5 months have suggested his popularity has fallen significantly and is continuing to drop at an alarming rate, along with that of his Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault. This is because Hollande is now seen as somewhat of a doormat that everyone and everything is trampling over, from the economy and Europe, to other internal affairs such as terrorism and gang violence. Despite sending the army to the southern city of Marseille to tackle the gangs in September - which was a strong move that no-one could have predicted, at least not from him -, 60% of people were still waiting for any change or improvement to the economy (S).

Like much of the rest of Europe, the French are fed up of still watching their leader sit down in Brussels with Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde to talk about money and the Greek crisis. I can't think of any country in Europe right now where the citizens love and support their leader and wouldn't want anyone else in their place. I don't think the majority of Europeans are willing to put a lot of faith in the European Union, everyone is unsure and everyone is worried (let it be said, just for the record, that I'm strongly pro-Europe).

The centrist magazine L'Express cover in
September read "And what if Sarkozy was right?"
So how does the French economy affect gay marriage not being introduced in France? The answer: The economy won't directly have a say in whether gay marriage gets legalised in March, on the other hand, it does have a say in whether François Hollande stays as President. Anti-Hollande protests already started to spring up during the last weeks of September and early October. They disrupted public transport for a full day in Bordeaux just last week. The French press has started to portray Hollande as desperate, out of his depth, and in doubt about his plans for economic recovery. They're even hailing Sarkozy as some sort of messiah who could possibly come back and relieve the country of its financial difficulties. If this happens before the New Year, and François Hollande's popularity falls through the floor and into the basement of the Elysee Palace - which it could very well do in that time-frame - marriage equality will be off the cards, because it is written on Hollande's cards, not on Sarkozy's. Let's not plan our Parisian Summer weddings just yet, folks, because there's plenty of time left for things to go wrong. For the bill to become law, we're going to need a President who supports it to be in office at the time (mid-2013).

Personally, I suspect that Sarkozy, in his defeat, saw it as a perfect opportunity to turn himself into a hero. One of the main reasons he was defeated was because he was unpopular with the French people. However, I think we secretly knew all along (liberals included) that Sarkozy was the only one who could really fix the economy. A considerable proportion of the gay community didn't vote for Hollande despite his marriage equality agenda, and explained their vote for Sarkozy being due to the fact they thought the economy was more important. Hollande hadn't even ever held a major political post before being elected President. I think Sarkozy knew people would start to get fed up of Hollande fairly quickly and had already put his plans to become the next Général Charles de Gaulle into action on the night of his defeat speech. Right-wing President De Gaulle was famous for being the head of the resistance, reuniting France after World War Two, and his "traversée du desert" (crossing of the desert, with biblical connotations of course) by which he accepted his defeat and announced his absence from politics for a while as soon as he was beaten in an election after the war, only to return to power in 1958 when the French people desperately called on him to come back in their 'hour of need' and resolve the Algerian crisis. Sarkozy's "traversée du desert" has certainly been much shorter than De Gaulle's, but one thing is for sure; that through his actions and the symbolism the press has been playing with over the last few weeks, that image and comparison has been painted in my mind.

Now, according to a recent BVA poll, 36% of people think Sarkozy's party - the UMP - could do a better job than François Hollande, who's currently popular with only 40% of French people. The gap is closing more every month.

So with Sarkozy's popularity on the rise, and Hollande's popularity in free-fall, will Hollande be able to resist the growing calls for him to be ousted from the presidential palace by the French people, who De Gaulle christened "the most recalcitrant and mobile people on Earth"?
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