14 February 2013

Le Beau Marriage: C'est Probable En France

On Valentine's Day, it's nice to have the kind of news I'm going to relay.

The other day, the Assembly, which is the lower house of France's Parliament, approved a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt children.  The vote was 329 to 229.  In order to become law, the bill has to be approved by the Senate which, like the Assembly, is controlled by the same Socialist party of which President Francois Hollande is a member.

The good news is that in poll after poll, the French overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage, but their support weakens when it comes to allowing gay couples to adopt children.  Having a pretty fair amount of time in France, I can tell you that, as in most countries, the provincial, rural areas are more conservative and religious than the cities or towns, so there is certainly opposition in those regions. Also, in les banlieues around cities like Paris, Lyon and Marseille, there are sizeable communities of fundamentalist Muslims and ultra-Orthodox Jews who certainly don't favor same-sex marriage or gay adoption.

However, it's hard not to feel that the bill will pass, and not only because of the political affiliations of parliamentarians.  Although the issue was rarely discussed until recently, French people have long known that some of their most prominent citizens--particularly in the arts and in intellectual endeavors--are gay or gender-variant.  Also, while there are still many conservatively religious French people, the Church does not have the same grip on politics or public life that it once had.  I think a line from one of Alberto Moravia's characters in The Conformist more or less applies to France:  "Ninety percent of the people who go to church today don't believe."  That may have been an exaggeration, but it does reflect one salient fact:  In France, you simply don't find the kind of religious zealotry (at least among Catholics or other Christians) that you can easily find here in the US.

Plus, while the French like to think themselves as independent of world opinion (and, in fact, they sometimes are), I would think that with gay marriage legal in  two of their neighboring countries ( Spain and Belgium) and in nearby Netherlands, and with same-sex unions recognized by two of their other neighbors (UK and Germany), they realize that the time has come for them to move forward.  Or, at least, they don't want to see as more retrograde than any of their neighbors.  

Plus--call me naive for saying this--I can't help but to think that if any of the European countries want to keep the EU together, they will have to work together on issues like same-sex marriage.  As an example, if a Belgian EU officer is married to her girlfriend and is posted, say, to Latvia , where the law says that marriage is between a man and a woman, there could be complications, to say the least.

But I think that if France legalizes gay marriage--as I believe it will--most of the remaining European countries will.  If Spain--which was one of the most conservative and Catholic countries not much  more than a generation ago-- can legalize it, and equally-conservative and -Catholic Ireland can recognize same-sex partnerships, what's to stop France or any other European country (save, perhaps, Poland) from doing the same?


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