Opponents of law legalizing same-sex marriage have staged the France’s largest-ever rallies; while organizers have urged non-violence, some have become combative and even labeled their camp the “French Spring”, referring to the regime-toppling Arab uprisings of recent years.
“We get the impression that marches gathering thousands of people were for nothing, that a petition that gathered 700,000 signatures was for nothing, and that the debate in parliament was extremely one-sided,” said Beatrice Bourges, a leader of the anti-gay marriage camp, according to France24.
The marriage equality law, known as Taubira law in France named after Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, has been approved in the lower-house National Assembly and is expected to sail through the Senate next week.
The demonstration was called to protest proposed “marriage-for-all” legislation that would give same-sex partnerships equal status with heterosexual unions and allow gay people to adopt children.
The France24 reported that opponents, a mix of traditional Catholics and far-right groups, promise to keep fighting for they say that same-sex marriage law will fundamentally weaken society.
On Sunday, a clash broke out between protesters and police when some tried to flout a ban on demonstrating on the Paris iconic Champs-Elysees. They were hit with batons and doused with Mace as they tried to cross police lines.
In addition, the 69-year-old leader of France’s Christian Democratic Party Christine Boutin was inadvertently sprayed with police pepper spray. That event prompted a call from right-wing circles for the resignation of interior Minister Manuel Valls, who is in charge of French police forces.
According to France24, a dozen lawsuits had been filed against the prefect by “victims” of the clashes.
The invasion of the Champs-Elysees, just metered away from the Elysee Palace, President Francois Hollande’s official residence, was not condoned by those who planned Sunday’s march.
The official estimated that 300,000 people took part in Sunday's march, slightly less than a similar march in January. Organizers estimated some 1.4 million people took part in Sunday's march, more than in the January protest.
Observers have been surprised that so many people came out in public opposition to gay marriage. Photo: Reuters
Polls indicate a shrinking majority of French voters back gay marriage, which is legal in about a dozen mostly European nations and some U.S. states. But polls show French voters are less enthusiastic about adoption by same-sex couples.
According to SF Gate, Frigide Barjot, the stage name of an activist who has led protests against the bill, insisted the anti-gay marriage movement wasn't a lost cause, declaring: "It's the second round, sir. It's not the last battle."