Several hundred thousand demonstrators filled the streets of Paris during a protest against President Francois Hollande’s plans to legalize gay marriage later this year. The proposed law would allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
The protesters, many of whom travelled from outside the capital, formed three columns that converged at the Eiffel Tower.
“We love homosexuals but a child must be born from a man and a woman, and the law must respect that,” said Frigide Barjot, the alter ego of comedian Virginie Tellene, the intentionally apolitical face of the protest.
Police said at least 340,000 took the streets, with the organizers claiming the figure was closer to 800,000. Five specially chartered trains and 900 buses transported protesters to Paris ahead of the march.
Demonstrators carried placards proclaiming “Born of a man and a woman,”, “‘Marriagephile, not homophobe” and “A father, a mother for all our children”.
The protests have forged a rare coalition of Christian conservatives, Muslims, and center-right politicians opposed to the plans proposed by the Socialist government in the immediate aftermath of Hollande’s election victory last summer.
“This is an important test for Francois Hollande,” said Jean-Francois Cope, the leader of the center-right UMP party.
The “marriage for all” law is not a mere formality, though many traditionalists have balked at words “woman” and “mother” being replaced by “spouse” and “parent” in official documents. When it comes into force by June, same-sex couples will have the same right to adopt children as heterosexual couples, although the president recently backed down on plans to provide state-assisted artificial insemination for lesbians.
The government has faced stiffening resistance on the legislation, with even moderate opposition accusing Hollande of foregoing public debate on the controversial issue. A similar protest in November attracted 100,000 people.
Polls show that just over half of French people still support gay marriage, but the endorsement has fallen by ten percent since the proposal was initially touted. Most, however, remain opposed to adoption by a gay couple.