Many assumed that France, with its secular culture and its comfort level with most things sexual, would pass marriage equality easily with little rancor. Instead, the country is seen some of the largest demonstrations against gay marriage in the world. The Global Post examines why:
Smelling blood after a bruising first year for President Francois Hollande, right-wing leaders have mobilised a fierce campaign. But sociologists argue that France’s social fabric and identity crisis also helps explain the ferocity of the debate… The divisions over gay marriage in France follow political lines, and the opposition has united against the bill, seizing an opportunity to pile pressure on an already embattled administration. “It was the first chance for the right-wing electorate to express their opposition to Francois Hollande’s presidency and (Prime Minister) Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government,” political analyst Jean-Yves Camus said. After Nicolas Sarkozy’s failed reelection bid and subsequent political retirement left France’s mainstream right in tatters, the opportunity was threefold for his UMP party, Camus said.
The Post also points to adoption as an issue:
Opinion polls have routinely indicated that while a majority of French people support gay marriage, a slight majority opposes adoption rights for homosexual couples. “It was clumsy of the government to initially suggest that the bill would also legalise medically assisted procreation” for homosexual couples, said Michel Wievorka, one of France’s most renowned sociologists.
In many ways, it seems a replay of what happened in the United States, when the American right decided to use gay marriage as a wedge issue against the left. It’s not so much that the politicians on the right are against marriage equality, Instead, they see it as an issue that can drive their base to the polls. And here I thought this was a uniquely American quality, using a social issue in such a divisive manner!