Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The French and British parliaments SPEAK NOW

In January, conservative opponents of the French government plans to change the laws permitting same-sex marriage rallied an estimated 120,000 to the streets of Paris. While recent polls in the country had suggested that a majority of French voters support marriage equality and adoption rights, the mayors of over a thousand towns, as well as the Catholic Church strongly voiced their opposition.

Now in mid-February,  France’s lower house of Parliament, the AssemblĂ©e Nationale (National Assembly), has passed a bill allowing for same-sex couples to marry and to adopt children.
 The bill, supported by the Socialist administration of President Francois Hollande, was passed by a vote of 329-229 despite a further number of large rallies, drawing an estimated one million people, called by opponents of the reform in the lead-up to the vote. (Tens of thousands of others had also marched in colourful demonstrations over the past year calling for same-sex marriage rights.)

“We’ve waged a great and noble battle,” French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told reporters shortly before Tuesday’s vote.

A vote in the Senate will now take place on April 2, with it expected to be closer than in the lower house, with Hollande’s party not holding an outright majority.  It is expected, however, other left-leaning representatives in the upper house will support the passage of the bill.

If the bill passes the Senate in two months time, France will join Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Sweden as countries allowing for same-sex marriage well as nine states and the District of Columbia in the US and a number of jurisdictions in Mexico and Brazil.

The success of the bill in the French Parliament comes only a week after a similar bill was passed by Britain’s House of Commons after Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron strongly advocated for the reform.

Here, some local advocates have suggested Australia is fast falling behind on its obligations of equality for all citizens when compared to other western nations. Australian Marriage Equality national director, Rodney Croome, said France's message to Australia and the world was that the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity apply equally to same-sex couples.

“The French vote, together with last week’s overwhelming vote in the UK parliament, highlights how quickly Australia is falling behind other western countries,” Croome said.

“Given the romance associated with Paris I expect many Australian same-sex couples will marry under the new French law, only to return to Australia to find their solemn vows count for nothing.”

Other advocates like Andre Banks, founder of LGBT online activist group AllOut, agreed it was a historic moment for France:

“French couples who just want to have the freedom to choose marriage as a way to show their love and their commitment to each other, have waited long enough,” Banks said. “French polls overwhelmingly demonstrate French people are in favour of marriage for gays and lesbians. I hope the French Senate passes the bill swiftly.”

-Thanks to Serkan Ozturk and GayNewsNetwork, as well as the Star Observer.