In an interview for the French newspaper La Croix, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, announced that gay couples would be granted the complete equality regarding their legal rights compared to straight couples. The statement triggered a storm of criticisms even from the supporters of the law.
On September 11th, Christiane Taubira announced that the government would propose a bill to the Assembly that would “extend to same-sex people the current dispositions of marriage, filiation and parenthood.” The announcement is clear and highly symbolic. It means than more than marriage, same-sex couples will be allowed to adopt “within an identic frame to the one actually working.” Now the government still talks about a “pre-project” that still needs to be figured out.
One must know there are administratively two types of adoptions: one that could be called full adoption, which breaks the links with the biological parents of the child, and simple adoption, which keeps those bounds intact. Keeping this pattern is important for same-sex couples. Indeed, simple adoption will allow homosexuals to adopt the biological child of their companion.
The government’s claim that the bill grants full equality was quickly contested, and not only by the opposition. Associations connected to the bill are first rather angry to see that the government seems to have made its decisions already, when consultations were supposed to take place. They denounce the fact that same-sex couples will not be allowed to resort to medically assisted procreation; a right heterosexual couples do have but with intense limitations
The equality of marriage, adoption and parent-child relations were part of François Hollande’s electoral platform, as well as access to medically assisted procreation (MAP). The fact that this right was left out of the bill explains the bewilderment of complete equality supporters. Voicing this disappointment, Nicolas Gougain, spokesman for the inter-LGBT association said, “we wish that the ministry will fix it all quickly and we ask to be received as soon as possible because, for now, we feel like Christiane Taubira is content with minimum service.”
The ecologist party Europe-Écologie-Les-Verts (EELV), allied with the socialist majority in the Assembly, clearly in favor of the MAP, announced that it would propose an amendment to the bill during the vote, if it were not included in the proposed project. The socialist majority is itself divided on the subject.
Right after Taubira’s declaration, Christine Boutin, president of the right-wing and conservative Parti Chrétien-Démocrate, called for the settlement of a referendum on the subject, stating that every citizen had a right to express himself directly on “subjects, heavy in its consequences on society,” rather than leaving the decision to elected officials. She made herself the voice of the traditional opposition to gay marriage and adoption. Because the PS has an absolutely majority in the National Assembly, it is very likely that if left to the government, the laws granting many of these rights will be passed. Opposed to such a bill, Boutin is specifically against the right for adoption, repeatedly calling on the consideration of “children’s rights” rather than “the right to [have] children”.
Boutin, as most French politicians against such a bill, never attacks homosexuals directly. They always defend their idea of marriage as an institution reserved to a woman and a man, and are ferociously opposed to adoption for same-sex couples for the sake of the children. They generally support civil unions known as the PACS, Pacte civil de solidarité. This is why Boutin rather passively called for a referendum, forcing the government to face what she sees as its contradictions.
Boutin claims that the referendum would satisfy the government, since it is in favor of a “participative democracy,” which implies a more direct approach to political questions and an active participation of the people in societal issues.
Another reaction was less passive than Boutin’s: the Mayor of Orange, Jacques Bompard, called for the use of the “conscience clause”, which allows a doctor who does not want to perform an abortion not to do so, to allow mayor not to authorize same-sex marriages.
The idea of the referendum does raise an important question. Gay marriage and adoption was in Hollande’s platform, and the representatives of the people will have the last word in the Assembly. However, one can wonder if, as Boutin says, such social changes can be implemented without the full agreement and understanding of the people. Boutin has a point when she says that the referendum might be the only way for the subject to be dealt with properly, with a true and honest debate.
Gay marriage and adoption are not like technical and economic measures that an average French person can barely understand. It is something that touches their everyday lives and if the bill were accepted after a referendum, it would only be stronger. And not wanting to take that chance begs the question that if the majority of people in France would not support such a change, is it yet the time for that change to be made?