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Tight Security at French Marriage Equality Rally

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Yes, that's me. It's on the internet. Hello Mum! © 2012 Anthony Rojo
FRANCE -- "Those people at the Place des Quinconces would be the subjects of a fantastic scientific study!" cried Mayinza Banthoud from the pro-equality Youth for Ecology association, "They're trying to travel back in time to the 1950s! But we invite them to join us here in the 21st century!" - the crowd laughed and cheered.

Last weekend on Sunday December 8th, over 10,000 people took to the streets of Bordeaux, France, the world-famous city known for it's wine, to express their opinions on the equal rights bills currently under review and under the watchful eye of a police helicopter and hundreds of police.

© Freedom Requires Wings 2012
A police estimation counted around 3,000 in the rally for and 8,000 against the equal rights bills. If passed, these laws would grant equal marriage, adoption, and medically assisted procreation (MAP) rights to all couples, and create the status of a 'social parent'. This would allow delegation of parental authority upon a child, vital in cases where the child could have 3 or 4 different parents, biological or social. Surrogacy is completely out of the question in France and is even forbidden to heterosexual couples by law. This is because it's seen by the large majority in government as the exploitation of women's bodies, on both the right and the left.

The demonstrations come at a time when a portion of government is undecided on the issue. A county deputy who will be one of those who'll vote for the equality bills, Vincent Feltesse, said when he was working as the online communications director for interim President François Hollande's election campaign, equal rights didn't seem to be an issue and they thought the large majority of the population would be in favor of the bills.

© Freedom Requires Wings 2012
"But that wasn't the case" said Mr. Feltesse, "we discovered there is actually a whole debate around the issue in French society at the moment".

One of the equality campaigners' reproaches to the government and politicians in general, is that they're out of touch with what's happening on the ground. It's true that the debate around equality for LGBT people is a very heated one, not what the politicians expected to uncover when they announced their plans. As usual, the divide in France can be associated with age groups. The younger generations are mostly in favour of equality for the LGBT community, whilst the older population and the religious are against the bills. According to most recent independent surveys, the percentage of those in favour of equal rights stands at around 60% - 65%, with half of those being strong supporters.

"François Hollande, you based your election campaign around youth and the future, don't forget it!" said Stephanie Martin-Stacchini, vice-president of 'Wake Up!', an association for LGBT youth in Bordeaux.
Equality supporters gather outside the court in Bordeaux before the march © Freedom Requires Wings 2012

"To the deputies, today leave your offices, question the younger generations at the gates of the universities, the high-schools, and you will realize that there is no need for a debate. The youth of France is ahead of their government" stated Jeffry Lucat, president of 'Wake Up!'.

The pro-equality supporters were technically a bigger crowd than the anti-equality protesters. Although the official figures state that 3,000 people were in the pro-equality march and 8,000 in the march against, it's worth taking into account the fact that 95% of those in the pro-equality march were from the city of Bordeaux itself or the surrounding towns, whereas those opposing them were brought to Bordeaux by bus from Toulouse, Pau, and other major cities from the South. If we were to limit the demonstrations to cities alone, those in the pro-equality rally would have greatly outnumbered the counter-demonstration.

This weekend, I'll be reporting on the largest equal rights rally France has ever seen, to be held in Paris at the Place de la Bastille on Sunday December 18th with over 35,000 people from all around the world expected to take to the streets and show their support. Buses have been organized from Brussels and people are flying in from France's non-European departments like Réunion Island (located in the Indian Ocean), especially for the march.
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