Excellent article up on Arun's blog, Arun with a View, about the recent passage of a law that authorizes marriage between gay and lesbian couples here in France. It is commonly referred to as Le Mariage pour Tous (Marriage for Everyone).
Like Arun, I was not very comfortable discussing it during the rather bitter political fight that went on as the law was being debated. Back in February I wrote this post expressing my uneasiness at being asked to take sides. I am not yet a French citizen and I drew the line at signing any petition that implied I was one which made a few people very unhappy with me.
How I feel about this personally is informed by my upbringing in the U.S. I knew gay couples in my youth, some of whom had children. The parents were good people (in one case I know of there were four parents) and the kids were just like any other kids. Did they make mistakes? Of course but not any more than any other parent. During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980's I watched the grief of one partner in a long-term (decades) relationship when his partner got sick and later died. You can't tell me that these two were not together in all the ways that matter and it seemed so unfair that their relationship did not have legal status.
In France there is the wedding at the mayor's office and, for those who wish it, a wedding at the church or synagogue. For me the first was perfectly nice but it was a formality we had to go through in order for my spouse and I to be able to be together in France. The one that counted was the wedding at the church. The French state could authorize polygamy tomorrow and I wouldn't bat an eye. There is civil marriage and then there is religious marriage - the first is for legal certainty but the latter is a sacrament.
What's kind of ironic in this entire debate is that marriage (civil or religious) is going out of style here in France. Very few of the young couples I know are actually married - the PACS (civil partnership) is preferred. In 2010 the number of births here outside of marriage was a whopping 54%. It's rather funny that an institution that is being abandoned more and more by straight couples is the object of so much controversy when eligibility is expanded to include gay couples. It may be that this new inclusive law will be the only thing holding up civil marriage in France in the future - so much for the idea of "Marriage for Everyone."
Arun's post is interesting on several levels. He points out that the debate over gay marriage in France is not a mirror of the debate in the U.S. The law in France was opposed by quite a few people on the Left like students and feminists. The churches here certainly played their part but it wasn't simply the Religious Right against the Progressives.
Once again this shows the danger of looking at any issue solely through the prism of what is going on in one's own country. The conversation is not the same and there can be as many faux amis (false friends) as there are genuine similarities.
Enjoy the post and your day of rest.