Equal but Different

In Paris, hundreds of thousands marched against granting adoption rights to same-sex couples. Their hidden fear? That gays will produce gay children.

Blasting Gangnam Style and waving pink and blue flags, hundreds of thousands gathered at the Eiffel Tower this Sunday to protect the foundations of the family they had been told were under threat. From what exactly? From the minority lurking in the Marais.

With the same-sex marriage bill to be debated in parliament at the end of the month, France is in the throes of an increasingly strident debate over the issue. Mobilization against the bill has surprised much of the rest of the world, where France enjoys a reputation for progressiveness.

Marriage itself did not concern the protesters much—they insisted this was not a homophobic demonstration. “I’m all for the gays getting married to each other. They can have the right of inheritance and all that if they want,” one young woman told me. Her sign bears a reference to Marx: “Our wombs are not shopping-carts.” “But gay couples and straight couples are not the same. Single women have been fighting for access to artificial insemination for years,” she said. “I don’t see why gays should be allowed it all of a sudden.”

She is referring to a part of the bill that the minister of the family, Dominique Bertinotti, declared was being dropped last week. Along with marriage and adoption rights, the government had initially included the right to artificial reproduction, but slammed that Pandora’s box shut after many conservatives remembered that they hated that, too.

Another elderly man’s sign read “Equal but different,” a slogan that harks back to the racially segregated US of the 1950s. “Every child has the right to a mother and father,” he explained. Be they into men, women, leather whips, or feather boas, ever since 1996, article 343-1 of the French civil code allows for any single person over 28 to adopt a child. By extending marriage to same-sex couples, the new bill simply allows kids to have two legal guardians instead of one. So are two happily married gay dads worse than a single gay dad?

Yes, according to a series of gay men who have ‘come out’ against the bill (click here to watch the video).

That’s right – if you assumed that all gays would be in favor of a gay rights bill, you are not only mistaken, you are apparently homophobic. That’s what Xavier Bongibault, a spokesperson for “Mariage pour Tous,” the organization behind the demonstration, said of Hollande’s government. Just to make sure he got his point across, he then hastened to compare the French president to Hitler.

The truth is, everyone’s tired of talking about the gays. The church, the opposition parties, even the right-wing extremists have lost some of their je-ne-sais-quoi. By tapping into the issue of children’s rights, the opposition successfully breathed new life into a debate that was otherwise losing much of its luster. Earlier last week, the gay fever also spread to the education system, as private Catholic schools declared they would be debating the issue with their pupils.

Sorting through the bigotry and the moral hysteria, you will find a more rational concern: if raised by two parents of the same gender, will a child be deprived of a healthy, gender-balanced childhood? Certainly, you need men as well as women in your life. But does it follow that legal guardianship should be restricted to pink-and-blue heterosexuals?

The real, rarely stated fear is that gay parents will raise gay children, and heterosexuality will die out: that’s what senator and owner of the French right-wing daily “Le Figaro,” Serge Dassault, warned: “Do we want a country of gays? In ten years, there will be no one.”

That’s why ancient Greece floundered, according to Dassault: too much boy-on-boy action. While we wait for our own civilization to crash and burn from too much queerness, let’s hope other things like idiocy don’t get it first.

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