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France divided over gay marriage

Demonstrators in favour, demonstrators against, both sides in the debates surrounding gay marriage in France have been promoting and defending their views energetically for months. The draft law was a campaign promise by Socialist President François Hollande. Eight other European countries recognise gay marriage as a right, but the French are divided.

Sixty-five percent of the people say they support legalising marriage for everyone, with same-sex unions to enjoy equal legal benefits.

Gay marriage rights are on the law books already in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark. The French draft law resembles these other countries’ legislation.

Article 143 says a couple of the same sex is free to marry, and free to adopt children. Like heterosexual couples, they can either adopt jointly or one or the other can adopt a child the partner already has.

A French person could marry someone of the same sex from another country, and two non-French could also marry, even if the law in the relevant third country or countries does not permit gay marriage.

The family or surname of a child in either a homosexual or heterosexual union (here the law is to be modified) will not automatically be that of the father in case of disagreement but of both the parents, in alphabetical order.

What opponents of gay marriage are most against is largely to do with children. Debate has raged hottest around these questions. Here, surveys of the French have found that only 49 percent of the people support equal rights of having or adopting or raising children. To dissociate this from the matter of full equal marriage rights is controversial – as is any suggestion of restricting parenthood for a gay couple.

A right to medically-assisted conception is not in the law. This will be debated in March, in the framework of other legislation with a bearing on the family and bioethics. Currently, assisted reproductive technology is reserved in France for heterosexual couples who cannot conceive naturally. It is authorised for others in nine countries, some of them bordering on France.

> Read also French lesbians head to Belgium to dodge ART ban at home

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