By Malissa Rogers
Hundreds of thousands of people marched to the Eiffel Tower on Sunday, in protest of the French president’s plan to legalize gay marriage.
Public opposition to President Francois Hollande’s plan, which also includes granting same-sex couples the right to adopt children, heightened as an estimated 340,000 demonstrators met in front of the iconic monument. Currently, polls show the majority of French citizens are in support of gay marriage, but when children become involved, many have a different view.
“They’re talking about putting into national identity cards Parent 1, Parent 2, Parent 3, Parent 4. Mom, dad, and the kids are going to be wiped off the map, and that’s going to be bad for any country, any civilization,” Melissa Michel, a Franco-American mother of five who was among a group from the south of France on a train reserved specifically for the protest, told the Associated Press.
Religious leaders have chipped away at the popularity of Hollande’s plan in recent months and most opposition comes from the more traditional rural areas of France, where the religion is mainly Catholic. Around 52 percent of French citizens currently favor legalizing gay marriage, according to a survey released Sunday, down from 65 percent in August.
“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 in the far east. “We have nothing against different ways of living, but we think that a child must grow up with a mother and a father.”
If the plan is approved by French parliament, France would become the twelfth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Harlem Desir, the leader of Hollande’s Socialist Party, said the protest would not affect the proposal’s progress. The Socialists control Parliament, where the bill is expected to be introduced on Tuesday, with a vote following public debate at the end of January.
“The right to protest is protected in our country, but the Socialists are determined to give the legal right to marry and adopt to all those who love each other,” Deshir said, according to AP. “This is the first time in decades in our country that the right and the extreme right are coming into the streets together to deny new rights to the French.”