French humorist and TV host Virginie Merle (C), also known
as 'Frigide Barjot' demonstrates against the gay marriage,
adoption and procreation assistance in Paris.
A huge weekend protest against the legalisation of
same-sex marriage and adoption has not dented the French
government's determination to pass the planned reform into law
soon, leading cabinet ministers say.
In one of the largest protests in decades, roughly half a
million people marched through Paris on Sunday demanding that
President Francois Hollande withdraw the reform bill and hold
a national debate before any change in the definition of
Many protesters told journalists the government's drive to
push through the reform, especially the adoption rights for
gays that a slight majority of French reject, and its refusal
to hold a wider debate helped bring out the crowds on a cold
Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who is also
women's affairs minister, said nothing had changed. The plan
to submit the reform bill in parliament late this month and
pass it by June would go ahead undisturbed, she told Europe 1
"The government is totally determined to achieve this reform,
this historic progress that is not the victory of one camp
over another but progress for the whole society," she said.
"We take note of the demonstration (but) this will be
discussed in parliament and not in the street."
Interior Minister Manuel Valls told the daily Le Monde: "We
always thought the turnout would be strong and it was ... All
the more reason to stay focused on the goal of passing the
OPPOSITION LOOKS TO NEXT LAW
Ifop pollster Jerome Fourquet said that, while the protest
was a success for the opposition camp, Hollande could not
afford to give in, especially after showing unexpected
resolve the same weekend by ordering French troops to fight
Islamists in Mali.
"On the other hand, (the protest) may signal further problems
for the government with the next law that will deal with
assisted reproduction," he said.
Socialist deputies had originally planned to amend the
marriage bill to include access to assisted reproduction
techniques for lesbians, but pulled back when it seemed this
was more controversial and could hinder the marriage reform.
The government now plans to include this issue in a family
law bill due to be approved by the cabinet in March. Tugdual
Derville, a co-leader of Sunday's protest, said that could be
another occasion for opposition pressure and maybe a protest.
Daniel Liechti, one of the few faith leaders who marched in
the protest, said the protest showed a new role for religion
in public life in highly secularised France.
"We're not naive, we see that religion's influence in society
is diminishing," said Liechti, vice president of the National
Council of French Evangelicals. "But as it diminishes, this
leads to increased commitment among believers."
Noting the key role played by the Catholic Church, which has
lost much of its power in France in recent decades, he said:
"The Catholic Church is now more like a church of converts
... when you're in a minority, this activism can grow."
While the Catholic hierarchy kept a low profile, about 30 lay
associations - including large ones representing Catholic
families and right-to-life activists - and local parishes
provided crucial logistical backbone for the protest.
Support from some Muslims, evangelicals and even gays opposed
to same-sex marriage also helped to widen the protest beyond
the hard core of Catholic participants, organisers said.