France’s Gay Marriage Bill Overcomes Toughest Hurdle

gay-marriage-franceFrance’s same-sex marriage bill is that much closer to becoming law after the Senate voted to approve its most controversial section.

After ten hours of debate, the Senate voted 179-157 to approve Section 1 of the bill, which would remove all references to gender on marriage applications.

According to the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News, Section 1 was the biggest hurdle and now the Senate will vote one-by-one on the remaining sections of the bill.

Meanwhile, legislation has been plagued by a series of protests and demonstrations, which have recently turned violent.

But if all goes well, same-sex couple should have the right to marry by summer. President Francois Hollande supports the legislation while his Socialist Party controls the senate and the National Assembly, which passed  the bill in February.


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  • Derek Williams

    Given the size of public demonstrations against this, the most recent as big as 300,000, and the commensurate escalation of extreme anti-gay violence, I think it is prudent to hold off on the marriage equality law until grassroots activism has had more success in winning over the hearts and minds to the cause of equality.

    A law is no use if it results in universal civil disobedience, and is not even enforced by local officialdom. Case in point is Russia, where if you’re gay-bashed, and report it to Police, they bash you too.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: You are dead wrong in fact and principle.

    First, 63% of France support marriage equality and 53% support equal adoption rights. It’s not in any controversy: majority of the French people have been won over, mind and heart, to the extent that they will vote to support gay equality.

    Second, you advocate what is tantamount to negotiating with terrorists. There is a reason why governments don’t do it: it sends the message to terrorists that their acts of violence are effective means in getting what they want. This isn’t Russia and this isn’t a case of universal civil disobedience – it’s a case where a small minority is trying to force the majority to bend to its frankly tyrannical will by unlawful means. Postponing gay equality because of these demonstrations is antithetical to any serious notion of democracy. Indeed, any rise in anti-gay violence shows precisely and exactly why gay equality must happen now.

  • mroy

    @Derek Williams: You have to understand French culture to realize this is a normal part of their social activism. They march and protest and if they’re passionate enough, they’ll get violent over anything. After all is said and done and their fears aren’t realized, life moves on there. The US culture is completely different in this realm, and you really have to live there and get immersed in the culture to realize how normal a response this is. When they were dealing with PACS a decade ago, it was controversial, there were issues about gender, gender was removed, it passed, and what happened? Life moved on and it will do the same with marriage for all in France.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: According to Reuters, support for marriage equality has slipped from the figure you quote to the low 50’s, and support for adoption rights has dropped well below 50%, and continues trending that way. What’s worse is the escalation in anti-gay violence, clearly from people without proper understanding of the positive possibilities of marriage equality.

    The 300,000 marching in the streets of Paris cannot all so easily be dismissed as “terrorists”, and to do so removes rationality from your argument. So long as the bill is not law, we can educate the masses, but once it’s law people have to live with the consequences of ramming something home without preparing the public properly for it.

    If you want a clearer idea of just how ill-prepared they are for it, look at the fact that at the forefront of the anti-equality movement are self-described “gay activists”
    Frigide Barjot and Xavier Bongibault

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: My analogy to terrorists is apt. If you prefer, let’s compare the protests with those of a barking dog. Why don’t you give a dog food when it begs? The exact same reason you don’t negotiate with terrorists and the same reason you don’t allow clerical bullies to intimidate you into stalling gay equality: it incentivizes undesirable behavior in the long term, even if you get a measure of peace in the short term.

    You can’t escape the fact that you’re advocating giving in to the heckler’s veto: As long as someone screams loudly enough in opposition, you fall silent – regardless of the correctness of your position. Again, this isn’t Russia where 86% of the population is anti-gay marriage (to say nothing of adoption).

    I’m also confused by your argument in the middle. Once the bill is law, why would we suddenly not be able to persuade opponents of our position?

  • 2eo

    Agreed, you can’t allow the use of threats to dictate policy, otherwise we here in Britain would be under the foot of fascist Oswald Moseley.

    You can’t let thugs and destitute, hateful god botherers have any say in laws that affect the lives of millions of good people.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: It is simply abusurd to allege that 300,000 marching in the streets are all “terrorist”, nor indeed the metaphorical equivalent of your other analogy of the “barking dog” just because they don’t share your point of view. Suppose you reverse the respective positions, and dismiss the LGBT crowds marching in the streets as “terrorists” and “barking dogs”? Why is their side “terrorist hecklers”, and our side not? Name calling our opposition does the opposite of legitmating our campaign. In fact it is every citizen’s right to protest, and looking at the respective numbers, it is the anti crowd with the ascendancy, not ours, not only in what they can marshall on to the streets, but in their deleterious effect upon public opinion, which is deserting us at high speed with support for marriage equality and adoption well on their way down.

    I have done anything but “fall silent” as you claim, nor have I in this, nor in any other thread advocated doing so. If you followed the link I posted, you will see just such an example of my verbose advocacy.

    To clarify my statement regarding our ability to bring cogent arguments to the public after the law is passed, the public is at its most attentive when something is hanging in the balance. Once it’s over, we’re not going to continue to see people adducing arguments for and against marriage equality, so public education will grind to a standstill, and thereafter depend upon ordinary homosexuals winning people over by their exemplary citizenship, maritcal fidelity and parenthood.

    Looking at a parallel in the US, Clinton’s first attempt to use Executive Order to force repeal of the law prohibiting military serve by LGBT on the military backfired, resulting in the disastrous comprompise of DADT which saw the dismisisal of 14,000 LGBT personnel, at a cost to the US taxpayer of over $192 million. By the time Obama was in office, public opinion for DADT repeal had matured to 75% in favour. Obama was again pressured to sign an executive order overturning DADT, but refused, saying he wanted to let it go to the elected Legislature, where it was passed. He also authorised a massive survey of those most affected, the serving military, and the results very much mirrored popular opinion with over 75% in favour of repeal, and only 10% dead against. The final version of the repeal act was passed also at Senate, and thereafter received the Presidential imprimatur. After the implementation, the US Military have reported no problems. Even the most ardently homophobic incoming Republican US presidency will not touch this clear expression of the will of the people.

    I know civil rights should not be voted on by the Tyranny of the Majority, but in reality this is a canard. The decriminalistion of homosexuality in the Australian state of Tasmania was won through wilful civil disobience, where homosexual couples went to clog the legal system with self-incriminating confessions to police, who refused to arrest them. This can work two ways, as I already argued above.

    Winning the hearts and minds coupled with advocacy to the legislative and executive branches of government are how I believe all civil reform should take place. I know it’s tough on those enduring hardships now, but I am interested in reforms that will last.

  • Polaro

    Derek, while skillfully expressed, I believe your conclusion to be wrong. The law should always be on the side of what is right, not on the side of public opinion.

  • Derek Williams

    @Polaro: Of course the law should always be on the side of side of what is right. The problem lies in persuading the warring factions to agree upon what is “right”.

    Not all religious people are disingenuous haters, and to dismiss them unilaterally as such will not win them over any more than being assaulted in the streets will win us over. Many religious people have been raised from childhood to believe that homosexuality is evil, something that many homosexuals have ourselves suffered in our own childhoods.

    The heavy hand of the law works well when the majority support both the spirit and the letter of it. This makes it easier to clean up crimes like murder, since most people wouldn’t dream of murdering anyone, and will assist police in catching murderers.

    But looking back a century, do you think equal marriage was any less “right” then, than it is today? If so, then what do you think the chances would have been of a supreme court ruling or legislation in favour of it prevailing anywhere? Think about the practicalities of a gay couple checking into a hotel, buying tickets to a double bunk cabin on a train, having their wedding reception in a conference centre, appearing in the Just Married section of the local newspaper, wearing wedding rings. If the majority of the population are against us, or at least our newfound marital status, these are not going to become instantly accepted overnight. There is little one can do to stop catcalls, shoving in public places, faux denial of spaces because the the hotel is “full”, or outright violence and threats of violence.

    Even in the US, where the 14th Amendment guarantees Equal Protection from the Tyranny of the Majority, it should be remembered that the Constitution and its various amendments as passed in ballots by the will of the people, and can just as easily be revoked by the will of the people. Take a look at Hungary, where the anti-gay “super majority” parliament has amended the country’s constitution to give itself sweeping powers.

    Changing public attitudes involves processes far more complex than merely passing laws. No government in its right mind should pass laws that will not be obeyed by the majority of its citzens. To do so only brings the rule of law into disrepute, and invites extremist retributory political elements to gain ascendancy.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: Your argument doesn’t make sense to me.

    First, you presume without warrant that the majority of the French people will disobey the law. Marriage equality does not require obedience from private citizens given that the law likely does not require anyone to solemnize marriages against their will. Access to this right does not depend on actions by third parties, just the state. The only actors involved are the gay couples and the French government.

    Second, who said they’re all terrorists? I certainly didn’t – I simply analogized to show why postponing marriage equality until everyone is in general agreement and won’t take to the streets is similar to negotiating with terrorists insofar as it incentivizes undesirable behavior. They of course have every right to protest, but they don’t have the right to perpetrate violence or break the law – that’s my issue, not the peaceful protest. To say that they’re on the ascendant is an exaggeration I think – yes, support is not as high as it was in months past and we may be at a local minimum were this represented on a graph, but the popular momentum in France is clearly on the side of gay equality. I don’t see how that’s in controversy.

    Third, Clinton never ended LGBT discrimination in the military by executive order – that’s what DADT sought to do. (I would add that your addition of the “T” is strange, as trans folks still can’t serve.) My understanding of DADT was that it was precisely the opposite of what you suggest: a compromise – an attempt to placate a homophobic electorate by a President who feared disappointing them and integrating the military by executive fiat.

    I don’t get why you argue that we can’t continue to persuade and fight for social equality after we get it formally. Or for that matter, why granting formal equality would have negative effects on social equality. I’m happy to keep persuading people that we’re right and that gay equality is important, but it is not incumbent upon me to grovel for my rights. The essence of a legal right is that you don’t have to ask nicely for it – you are entitled to it as a matter of law, and if people don’t think so, it’s their problem, and they’re welcome to holler until the cows come home – just as long as they do so peaceably.

    I wonder – how much support does gay equality need before you would accept legislative action? Does it need to be a majority? You are essentially arguing that civil rights be put up to a vote: as long as enough people don’t want them granted to the minority, they can and should be withheld. I’m sorry that civil rights cause protesting and strife – the 60s come to mind and the violent social revolution of the Civil Rights Movement – but I don’t think any fair-minded person would look back and decry the Warren Court for desegregating schools and causing great social upheaval or forcing states to accept interracial marriage when about 70% of the US population rejected it.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: I also should add, amendments are not easily passed in the United States. When I say not easily, I mean practically impossible unless you’re talking about something procedural like the 27th Amendment. It is a practical impossibility that the 14th Amendment will be repealed in the foreseeable future barring a national cataclysm on the order of the Civil War. To use the amendment process as an argument for how the will of the people can subvert the rule of law is a bad faith argument – it’s just not plausible that the Constitution of the United States will be substantively amended any time soon, let alone amended to deny equal protection.

    Also, your use of the term “rule of law” isn’t accurate. The term refers to equality before the law to the extent that all citizens are subject to the same rules. Whether they are obeyed or not is not a reflection of the rule of law and is a different issue entirely.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: Please don’t put words into my mouth. It’s hard enough clarifying to you the ones I actually did utter without wasting time rebutting your responses to ones I did not.

    I never argued that civil rights have to be put to the vote, only that it helps if the majority are behind them, and that we should strive to win people over ahead of trying to force people to accept things they don’t believe in.

    I never said that Clinton ended LGBT discrimination with executive order, only that he attempted to, unsuccessfully, which makes your point about the “T” irrelevant. I already stated that DADT was a “disastrous compromise”. I wish you would read more carefully.

    I never implied that anti-gay violence was justified as a political tool, only that it is foolish to provoke it when other means of reaching consensus are at our disposal.

    With reference to your example of the repeal of US anti-miscegenation laws in the 60’s, even though the majority were still against mixed marriages, there was a clear trend towards acceptance in every survey. You can see from the figures below that there was a fivefold jump in support between 1958 and 1968. Moreover, different race is a lot easier to detect than different sexuality, and no-one thought of race as a ‘behaviour’ the way so many still think homosexuality is.

    “Do you approve or disapprove of marriage between blacks and whites?”

    1958: 4% Approve, 94% Disapprove
    1968: 20% Approve, 73% Disapprove
    1972: 29% Approve, 60% Disapprove
    1978: 36% Approve, 54% Disapprove
    1983: 43% Approve, 50% Disapprove
    1991: 48% Approve, 42% Disapprove
    1994: 48% Approve, 37% Disapprove
    1997: 64% Approve, 27% Disapprove
    2002: 65% Approve, 29% Disapprove
    2003: 73% Approve, 23% Disapprove
    2004: 76% Approve, 19% Disapprove
    2007: 77% Approve, 17% Disapprove

    Support for marriage equality in France by contrast has slumped since the bill entered parliament.

    The “only actors” are not just gay couples and the French government, everyone is an actor if they see themselves as one. Try telling 300,000 people in the streets “you have no business being here, this is between us and the government”. The people in the streets elect the government too, but you don’t want them to even speak.

    Once “the actors” walk out of parliament with their equivalent of “I bring you peace in our time” waving in their hands, they still have to face the brutal reality of non-acceptance in all the cases I exemplified, such as booking into hotels as couples, and a lot more.

    Given I have other things to do, as no doubt you do, and given how verbose this conversation is becoming and how little each is persuading the other, I suggest we agree to disagree. I will happily leave you to have the last word. Good night.

  • 2eo

    @jwrappaport: You don’t actually think that a lot of these people are rational enough to have a “change of heart”, yesterday 38 people in America voted to classify homosexuality as a jailable offense.

    They can NOT be reasoned with because their position is NOT LOGICAL, therefore it can not be expected that those people are capable of rational and critical thinking necessary to arrive at the obvious truth that equality is an absolute necessity.

    There are still many people who greet black people with gritted teeth, still tens of thousands who would vote for re-segregation. These people are not rational, and the time has come to stop pretending they are capable of being won over.

    I don’t see how we’ve come so far as a community and some of us still think playing nice to their god and to the tune of their death marches makes us any freer.

  • 2eo

    Wrong person JW, That was intended for Derek.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams:

    1. Clinton never made such an executive order and never attempted it. Show me the evidence – I’ll happily concede this point if you do so. The fact that you put the “T” in there speaks volumes, as no one (even now) would include it in an executive order proposal or legislation integrating the military.

    2a. You argue that it is undesirable to legally protect minorities unless they have popular support. Your justification is that people won’t obey the law and would undermine it entirely. Marriage does not require anyone to “obey” it – how does that present a problem of civil disobedience? That’s what I mean when I use the word “actors.” We don’t need them to have the right to marriage – it exists as between us and the state. Your argument may have traction with respect to adoption given that the new law places duties on agencies, but no such luck with the right of marriage, as it places a duty on the state alone.

    2b. You make the normative argument that we shouldn’t legally force people to accept things they don’t believe in and instead should try and convince them. That’s putting civil rights to a popular vote – I’m not sure how you don’t think it’s so.

    3. There is a clear trend toward acceptance of gay marriage in France. The fact that we may be at a local minimum, the general trend is certainly pro-gay rights. It may have slumped, but I wonder what the trend is in the last five years, or 10, or 20.

    I ask again: how much support does a minority right need before you would be okay with a legislature enacting it? Again, the whole point of a right is that I don’t have to ask nicely – it’s mine, and I don’t care if people are angry about me having it. That’s why we have police and a robust criminal justice system: to vindicate the laws and punish people who disobey them. That some people would disobey a law is not an answer for the question of why a law shouldn’t be passed.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: Your second response came in while I was typing my first.

    A law that is too often flouted, such as were the laws criminalising homosexuality, ought to be repealed if it cannot be enforced, or is no longer being invoked. That is what I meant by bringing the law “into disrepute”.

    As regards a possible amendment to the US Constitution, I disagree. In the vast majority of US states, amendments to state constitutions were made banning same-sex marriages There was every possibility, and still is, that a Federal Amendment doing the same might succeed, notwithstanding the current apparent opposite trend towards marriage equality.

    And now, that really is goodbye from me.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: You haven’t justified your hidden assumption that the majority of the French wouldn’t obey the new laws. You also haven’t accounted for the fact that a gay marriage law can’t be flouted because it places no duties on individuals. Again, you may have a case with other gay rights laws (though I doubt it), but not so with marriage.

    Also, you should read Article V of the US Constitution and then compare those requirements to those in the states that you Wiki’d. Spoiler alert: The Article V requirements to amend the Constitution are incredibly onerous both procedurally and in practice. Procedurally, you’re talking a 3/4 supermajority of state legislatures or special conventions to ratify (to say nothing of the approval stage) an amendment, when many states allow amendment by a 51% plebiscite or bare majority in the legislature. In the words of the venerable Herman Cain: You’re comparing apples and oranges.

    Practically, an amendment to the US Constitution would require much broader support than a state amendment given that you’re talking 3/4 of the states – a massively diverse and cumbersome electorate that cannot agree even by 60% on Presidential elections.

    There is no serious possibility of a constitutional amendment with respect to restricting gay rights in the foreseeable future, again, barring a cataclysmic event. You’re out of luck with that argument.

    I can go all night, and I welcome a rebuttal.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: Your third response came in while I was typing my second! Clinton was frustrated in his express desire to issue an executive order ending discrimination in the military by Congress.

    So far as policing et al are concerned, what use is a law if homophobic or racist police are lax about enforcing it? Dictatorial government is ultimately doomed.

    No question that civil rights shouldn’t be voted on, but when they are voted on and accepted by the majority, I can’t see how you don’t regard that as leading to a more stable situation. Those opposed to this were a lot quieter when wins occurred in every one of the four states where marriage equality was put to the vote in last year’s US presidential elections. Should we now go back and demand that the results of these winning ballots for us be ignored, because civil rights shouldn’t be put to the vote?

    Conversion by the sword may get quick results, but is never as deeply persuasive as reason, discussion and the human condition, regardless of whether some people are irrational or not.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: Your third response came in while I was typing my second! Clinton was frustrated in his express desire to issue an executive order ending discrimination in the military by threat of revolt from Congress. No executive order was ever issued, and I never said there was. Your responses are disintegrating into point scoring and nitpicking

    So far as policing et al are concerned, what use is a law if homophobic or racist police are lax about enforcing it? Dictatorial government is ultimately doomed.

    No question that civil rights shouldn’t be voted on, but when they are voted on and accepted by the majority, I can’t see how you don’t regard that as leading to a more stable situation. Those opposed to this were a lot quieter when wins occurred in every one of the four states where marriage equality was put to the vote in last year’s US presidential elections. Should we now go back and demand that the results of these winning ballots for us be ignored, because civil rights shouldn’t be put to the vote?

    Conversion by the sword may get quick results, but is never as deeply persuasive as reason, discussion and the human condition, regardless of whether some people are irrational or not.

    You may be able to “go all night”, but I have to call it quits as I have work to do, and it’s pointless arguing here anyway, since the real battle lines are elsewhere.

  • Derek Williams

    @jwrappaport: Conversion by the sword may get quick results, but is never as deeply persuasive as reason, discussion and the human condition, regardless of whether some people are irrational or not.

    You may be able to “go all night”, but I have to call it quits as I have work to do, and it’s pointless arguing here anyway, since the real battle lines are elsewhere.

  • jwrappaport

    @Derek Williams: Ah yes, but it is not conversion I seek, but instead equality before the law. Reason, discussion, and the human condition are the very soul of the law. I hardly think the law of gay equality can be reduced to rule by the sword given that those laws are subject (in the US) to judicial review and the nuance of adjudication.

    Goodnight – and let us fight another day perhaps.

  • MK Ultra

    We in the LGBT community have probably been the most patient people on Earth. For decades we’ve been told to wait, that our time will come. In the end we only suffered more abuse. Then we grew a set and started doing things our way.
    And we have been constantly making gains since then to the point where we’re about to get real equality.
    What we’ve been doing so far is exactly what’s working.
    Sorry but the “let’s change hearts and minds of the ignorant first” sounds as ridiculous and deceptive as when Bush used the same lie to justify war.
    Some hearts and minds won’t be changed. The LGBT community, both in France and the iS is tired of waiting. Tired of begging lowlives for their approval of our existance.
    The time is now.

  • 2eo

    @MK Ultra: Agreed, there is no appeasement, they aren’t going to grow up and accept that we are all humanity.

    They still hate blacks, they still resent the fact women can vote. They still resent anything other than christianity exists.

    They are not reasonable, so they will be pushed out of acceptable society one by one until everything is finally equal, we deserve the right to be treat as human, and absolutely nothing less.


    Never forget it, words to live by.

  • viveutvivas

    @Derek Williams, in pretty much all countries and states where gay marriage has passed, it ceased to be an issue after some initial uproar, once people realize that the sky is not, in fact, falling. If this history has taught us anything, the best strategy is simply to strike now, while the iron is hot, and put France out of its misery by passing the law as soon as possible.

  • Democratsnforward

    With a divorce rate at 50%, heterosexuals continue to destroy the sanctity of marriage nationwide, they have pre-marital sex outside of marriage, there is rampant adultery (a violation of a 10th Commandment by the way), and 1 out of every 3 heterosexual women commit abortion in this country. Clearly, the “anti-marriage-equality” crowd has a lot to fix within their OWN heterosexual group, first, before citing biblical passages against us non-heterosexual persons! Hypocrisy is the “bigot’s” finest delusion apparently.

    There are in even some people on here who essentially claim that they worship a God which hates, divides, and is against equality. Thank goodness I don’t support “your God.” MY GOD, supports ALL Americans (and all persons around the world) no matter who they love, the color of their skin, their religion, or gender. I celebrate equality not bigotry. I celebrate the SEPERATION of church and state, NOT theocratic (religious) rule over the populace. Stay OUT of my love life and let me marry who I want. DO I TELL “YOU” WHO YOU SHOULD MARRY? No. So, respectfully, leave me the hell alone!

    Ignorant individuals should also be aware that marriage was never between one man and one woman. King Solomon (in the bible) had 700 WIVES and polygamy was WIDELY practiced a few hundred years ago. Marriage was also not allowed between Whites and Blacks, Whites and Latinos, and Whites and Asians (nationally) up until 1967 by supreme court ruling. I don’t have to believe in your belief, religion, or position BECAUSE I LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY, it’s called a democracy, NOT a “theocracy” (religious rule over the people).

    Further, it’s sad to say that homophobic individuals on here wouldn’t have supported Blacks and Whites marrying in the 1960s. Thank goodness their opinion is now THE MINORITY (Nearly 60% of Americans and 80% of 18-35 year olds support marriage equality). If you people can’t cope when marriage equality is allowed, oh well, accept it OR BE MISERABLE if you’re just so concerned with other people’s lives which DO NOT affect you personally.

    Finally, the bible has lead to the slaugther of more people than any and all wars combined “in the name of God,” the bible has lead to the persecution of Jews for the last ONE THOUSAND years, the bible has been used to prove that Whites can OWN Blacks as slaves, and now ignorant individuals want to get involved in my sex & love life and use the bible to say I can’t marry who I want. I believe in God, but my God doesn’t support hate. My God supports love and equality for all. Our country’s bible is the UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION…not some “holy” book that promotes, incest, rape, slavery, and polygamy, by the way.

    Bible thumpers, I’ll leave you with some things the bible bans. I hope you haven’t done any of this, IF YOU HAVE, YOU ARE GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL! :D


  • dnyboy

    It’s my personal belief that the protests in France have reached this point because the far right knows they’re fighting a losing battle. It’s a last ditch effort to combat the inevitable social change.

    Violent protests broke out all over the country when the retirement age was raised to 62. Strikes are litterally an almost monthly occurence in France. Protesting is just something the French DO. It can’t be compared to the American political system where people generally only express their views through voting.

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