Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Gay marriage will be legalised and it's all over bar the shouting

Christiane Taubira, French Minister of Justice
After seven months of noisy for-or-against demonstrations, impassioned speeches, angry slanging matches and media stunts, the bitter debate on gay marriage entered its last phase yesterday with the opening of the official parliamentary debate, which will last for four weeks and culminate in a vote.

The opening speech, in support of the bill, was made by Justice minister Christiane Taubira, and what a speech it was. Taubira's reputation as a turbulent free-thinker within the government may have had some Socialists fearing a tirade of non-party-line personal views before she stood up to begin her speech, but their fears were instantly allayed by what turned out to be an eloquent discourse of very high quality which she delivered without notes. It lasted 35 minutes and she fully deserved the standing ovation which followed her closing remarks. It was more than a hard act to follow and sure enough, the opposition's subsequent speeches sounded lame and hackneyed in comparison.

Nouvelobs political commentator Thierry de Cabarrys summed up her performance rather well by writing that she "...left the opposition, which was quick to heckle her at the start, with no way of challenging her arguments, which, one after the other, referred to the bill in historical and legal, but also republican, human and poetic terms."

The run up to this debate had led us to believe that it would be the four-week political equivalent of the Battle of Waterloo and a Custer's Last Stand for the opposition, who promised to throw everything into the fight. French parliamentary rules allow for amendments to a bill to be proposed by its opponents and debated, and the opposition had made it clear that they would adopt a filibustering tactic consisting of the submission of 5000 mostly spurious so-called amendments in an effort to try to drag the debate out at worst, or, better still, force the government to abandon their plans.

But two sets of circumstances seem to have taken the wind out of their sails. Firstly, there was a massive, almost surprising, show of solidarity by the Socialists, who were almost all present. This is a rare sight in Socialist circles, the party being notorious for its internal divisions and squabbling, so any hopes the opposition may have had of putting them off their stride were dashed from the start.

The second factor is that it became evident yesterday that the last few months of bitter in-fighting between various opposition factions, due mainly to the suicidal party leadership spat between Jean-François Copé and François Fillon, has left rank-and-file députés disoriented by the lack of a clear party line on Gay marriage. This explains the conspicuous absence of a good number of opposition députés in parliament yesterday, and the bedraggled ranks of those who did turn up must have been disappointed by their leaders' speeches, which were uncoordinated, unoriginal and lacking in substance.

It was almost as if they knew in advance that their cause was lost, and this sentiment was transposed into petulant ill-will by leading UMP figure Christian Jacob, who explained away the poor attendance of the opposition with the hissy-fit declaration that they saw no reason why they should listen to Taubira's speech, which was "arrogant" and "talentless".

The Socialists have already announced their intention to address all the filibustering amendments - although similar ones will be regrouped for debate, as allowed by the rules - and refuse the temptation to push the bill through by shortening the debate via the use of emergency parliamentary measures. This is a wise move for it will ensure that the opposition will not be able to claim that they are being treated unfairly, and this may well lead to even more frustration within their ranks.

Chritiane Taubira's speech has probably sounded the death-knell for opponents of gay marriage, whose arguments have consisted of stale and outdated ideas of what modern society and marriage should be. And that's the up side, as there has also been a torrent of abusive and flagrantly homophobic bile with more than a hint of Catholic Integrism to it.

The debate will inevitably see some high drama moments and spectacular gestures such as, maybe, a parliamentary walk out by the opposition in protest, but when all the huffing and puffing is over it would appear that the government has already won the day and all it has to do to get the law put through to the Senate for ratification is hold its nerve in the face of what is sure to be an onslaught of provocation by the opposition.

The fact is that the gay marriage law was an election promise which was and still is supported by a majority of French citizens. This alone ensures that the government has right on its side. Add to that a discredited anti campaign and a leaderless, directionless and dispirited opposition party, and it's hard not to believe that it's all over bar the shouting and that the gay marriage bill shall be duly voted into law.


  1. A good summary of recent events, and interesting analysis of this oh, so sensitive issue, Fripouille. It was a hard job, but someone had to do it. I feel *almost" guilty for writing a near vapid story on my blog today -- but I know my female readers will be grateful for it :-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. I'm glad you appreciated this post French Girl. As to it being 'dirty work', my analysis isn't particularly unique because lots of French press political commentators think the same thing in a broad sense (except at Le Figaro of course), although every article covers a particular slant. That said, in general, yes, commenting politics isn't always easy but someone has to do it. I just happen to be one of those who are fascinated by politics and one thing I learned when I started writing about political issues is that being on the 'left' or 'right' of the political spectrum is futile for anyone who wants to understand issues fully. I just give my opinion on leaders, governments, policies etc on their own merits at the time (and according to my way of thinking) and I don't care whether it's the left or right. If I agree with something, I say so, and if I don't, I say so too. And in both instances I don't care who's saying it, be they of the left or right.

      More importantly than all that though, is that if ever you comment again on one of my posts about your 'vapid' stories you shall be sent to bed with no dessert or Facebook or iPhone or candy, and you shall clean the house for a week!

      In other words, why do you think I appreciate your blog? I mean, if everybody wrote about politics like I do, Blogger would be
      a very boring place. Sure people need political news. But we also - and that includes those like me who write about politics - need to climb down off our lofty analytical pedestals sometimes and relax, read about books, art, travel, music, fashion, sport, and lots of other things. Things I love, but am not really capable of writing about.

      And that is why, as soon as I've said hello to Nadege, I shall be reading your 'vapid' blog. With the greatest of pleasure moreover.

    2. That was very nice, merci. And I need to add that if you enjoy politics, and even more so commenting politics, then you moved to the right country! :-) Glad you mentioned candy. It just reminded me I need to research a story about candy, as a matter of fact. Incorrigible I am, still dabbling in vapid, shallow topics. Le sigh. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    3. "Dessert..." I meant to say: "Glad you mentioned dessert..." :-)

  2. I think (really just a personal thought) that sometimes people are against something because other people want them to be against it but deep in their heart, they know differently. That might be the case for the opposition politicians in France. In most western countries, people are for gay marriage. Even in the US, there is a vast majority for it. I am not sure what people against it are afraid of. Another great post Fripouille!

    1. Hey hi Nadege!

      "I am not sure what people against it are afraid of."

      You raise a good point there. Just what the hell is people's problem with gay people and gay marriage? Why do they think that way? I happen to be heterosexual but never have I ever had the least negative opinion of gays. My lifestyle and social milieu mean that I have always had gay friends since I was a teenager, certain of whom I'm sure would have liked to have more than just a platonic relationship with me. But I just explained that I wasn't gay and hey, 'you can't always get what you want' as the Stones said, be you male or female, gay or straight.

      Yup, just what are they afraid of?

      We read that virulent homophobes are homosexuals who can't admit it to themselves, but I don't buy that. It sounds too intellectually lazy as an explanation to me. 'Un peu trop facile' as they say. And some say that it all has to do with those ridiculously outdated and debunked Freudian theories about relations with parents before the age of 3 months or something. Bull excrement. Politicians, of course, change their opinions depending on what they think voters want to hear, so who cares about them.

      And there are other theories too, but those peddled by religions and their more extremist followers are the most hypocritical of all, because it is a documented fact that there are just as many homosexuals within the clergy - and particularly the Catholic clergy - as is to be found in the rest of society. The difference being though, that the church denounces it when it comes to others, yet it does nothing to 'stop this unnatural practice' within its own ranks.

      All this to say, again, that you raise an interesting point. WHY are some people afraid?

      I honestly think that we don't really know, but I have a feeling that this fear was drilled into people's minds 2 or 3 thousand years ago or even longer, by the same kind of demagogues and populist moralists who are, highly unfortunately, still around today.

      That's my little take anyway.

    2. This, clearly, was not a vapid answer :-)

  3. This is not Chrstiane Taubira on your picture...She's got a beauty spot on the right side of her chin, unless she had plastic surgery;)!

  4. I found out who's on the's a woman from another french political party. Her name: Yannick Leflot-Savain.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out Anon, and I've changed the photo accordingly. I try not to use copyrighted pix wherever possible and as I didn't like the photo of her on her French and English Wiki pages I googlesearched images of her, selected 'free of licence' and the photo you mentioned came up on a Flick'r account. It looked pretty much like her, and I was doing other stuff at the time, so I didn't notice that in fact it wasn't her. Ah, google searches....

      Again, thanks for the info and have an excellent day, o eagle-eyed Anon! :)

  5. “L’acte que nous allons accomplir est beau comme une rose dont la tour Eiffel assiégée à l’aube voit s’épanouir enfin les pétales,
    il est grand comme un besoin de changer d’air,
    il est fort comme le cri aigu d’un accent dans la nuit longue” - Léon-Gontran Damas .