Saturday, June 23, 2012

France Set to Become One Kick-Ass Country

New president, new day
»» Update added 30 June 2012

France already rocks, but it's about to turn up the volume on its coolness level.

Three-hundred forty three out of five-hundred seventy seven.  That's the official number of seats that the French Socialist Party and its fellow-progressive allies now have in the National Assembly, as a result of elections held this month.

That's a clear majority, and it means the conservatives, who earned only 223 seats, don't have enough votes to block the progressive legislative agenda of the new French government.

The French Senate, too, has a clear socialist majority, and it's all very, very good news for equality.

Those same elections also brought in a new, liberal, socially progressive president:  François Hollande.  The president and his newly-formed government, headed by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, have made a solid, public promise that same-sex couples will be able to marry no later than the spring of 2013, if not sooner.  The new marriage legislation, which has already been drafted, will extend joint-adoption rights to same-sex couples, and also grant fertility access to lesbian couples.

» Update, 30 June:   A statement released by PM Ayrault's office yesterday announced that the government would be submitting legislation for marriage equality "in the next few months," speeding up their original time frame. Concurrently, the Junior Minister for Families, Dominique Bertinotti, told French newspaper La Parisien that marriage and adoption rights will be opened to same-sex couples before 2012 comes to close, but did not specify an exact time table (Reuters).

But it gets even better.  A bill to lift the ban on gay men donating blood is also in the works, as is a bill to expand transgender rights.  The latter will enable trans persons to legally change their gender even before they undergo SRS (sexual reassignment surgery), or even if they choose not have the surgery at all.

I love France.  I've been to France several times and it's the kind of country that leaves a very good impression.  But on the issue of equal marriage, I've always found it odd that it's taken France so long to come around.

France is not a rabidly homophobic place by any means.  The French people are, by and large, very fair-minded and proud of being strongly supportive of equality for all.  A 2011 poll found that 63% are in favor of marriage equality.  Even though the majority of French people identify as Catholic, the French state is firmly secular; France was, after all, the first country in the world to create a Bill of Rights.

The problem had been that right-leaning parties had held the majority in the Assembly for many years, which actually caused a marriage equality bill to go down in defeat in 2011.  The next time a similar bill is taken up, in either late 2012 or early 2013, it will pass handily.

Not only is this great news for French same-sex couples, it could potentially have a larger impact on the whole of Europe.  With 63.5 million people, France is the second most populace country in Europe.  Marriage equality in France would certainly help to speed up harmonization of marriage recognition laws throughout the EU.

At present, EU countries have a patchwork of marriage laws (much like the states of the USA have).  But as higher and higher percentages of Europeans are living in nations with equal marriage, it increases the pressure to adopt an EU regulation that same-sex marriages must be recognized in all EU member countries, whether the other country has equal marriage laws on the books or not.  (Individual countries won't be forced to perform or legalize same-sex marriages within their borders, but they will have to honor and recognize the marriages of same-sex couples conducted elsewhere.)

The European Parliament has already discussed this and adopted resolutions moving toward this end.  With France joining the marriage equality squad, it's likely to tilt the momentum even further.

So if you've always dreamed of a summer wedding in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, followed by an outdoor reception of awesome French wine, cheese, and croissants, go ahead and book your flight.  By this time next year it'll be a go!


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