FRANCE: Thousands March In Paris To Protest Against Same-Sex Marriage

As expected, tens of thousands of Catholics and Muslims marched through the streets of Paris today in opposition to the same-sex marriage bill proposed by President Francois Hollande and his Socialist Party.

Organisers reserved five high-speed trains and 900 buses to bring protesters from provincial towns to the capital, some before dawn, to join Parisians and display the extent of the opposition that has built up in recent weeks. “Nobody expected this two or three months ago,” said Frigide Barjot, a flamboyant comedian leading the “Demo for All” she described as “multicultural, multireligious and multisexual.” Strongly backed by the Catholic hierarchy, lay activists have mobilised a coalition of church-going families, political conservatives, Muslims, evangelicals and even homosexuals opposed to gay marriage. “We want this draft law to be withdrawn,” Patricia Soullier, a protest organiser, told BFM-TV before boarding a Paris-bound train in Montpellier in the south of France. Hollande angered opponents of same-sex marriage by trying to avoid public debate on the reform, which Justice Minister Christiane Taubira described as “a change in civilisation”, and wavering about some of its details.

The number of protesters that appeared today differs widely, with some press accounts estimating the crowd “in the tens of thousands.” Organizers, unsurprisingly, have different figures.

The organisers put the number of marchers at 800,000, with demonstrators pouring into Paris by train and bus, carrying placards that read, “We don’t want your law, Francois” and “Don’t touch my civil code”. Police had earlier told French media the figure was 120,000 and one government minister said the turnout was lower than the organisers had predicted. A similar march in November attracted around 100,000 people. The “Demo for all” event was being led by a charismatic comedian known as Frigide Barjot, who tweeted that the “crowd is immense” and told French TV that gay marriage “makes no sense” because a child should be born to a man and woman.

UPDATE: More from The Star.

The protest march started at three points across Paris, filling boulevards throughout the city as demonstrators walked six kilometres to the grounds of France’s most recognizable monument. Paris police estimated the crowd at 340,000, making it one of the largest demonstrations in Paris since an education protest in 1984. “This law is going to lead to a change of civilization that we don’t want,” said Philippe Javaloyes, a literature teacher who bused in with 300 people from Franche Comte. “We have nothing against different ways of living, but we think that a child must grow up with a mother and a father.” Public opposition spearheaded by religious leaders has chipped away at the popularity of Hollande’s plan in recent months. About 52 per cent of French favour legalizing gay marriage, according to a survey released Sunday, down from as high as 65 per cent in August.