Thousands take to streets of Paris to protest against legalisation of gay marriage set to pass this week
- Riot police line the streets to prevent violence at heated demonstration
- Gay marriage to be legalised in France this week barring last-minute U-turn
- Thousands more take part in counter-protest against homophobia
Thousands of opponents of gay marriage marched through Paris yesterday in a last-ditch protest before a law allowing same-sex union and adoption is passed tomorrow.
About 50,000, most of them older people and families with children, waving pink and blue flags massed behind a banner reading: ‘All born of a mum and a dad.’
Although it ended peacefully, riot police had been on standby after a series of violent demonstrations outside the French parliament earlier this month. Police had to use tear gas when far-Right youths pelted them with stones and bottles.
On Thursday there were 75 arrests at another demonstration in Paris.
March: Thousands of protesters took to the Paris streets to demonstrate against gay marriage today
Yesterday’s march had been hastily organised after the law’s passage was sped up to avoid a big rally set for next week.
‘We warned the president back in November that we would not give up and that we would do everything to stop this law being passed, or to get it repealed if it is adopted,’ said protest organiser Alberic Dumon.
Numerous opinion polls have shown that a majority of French people support gay marriage but far fewer agree that homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children.
The law change is part of President Francois Hollande’s flagship social reform policies, but opponents claim it is undemocratic to bring about such a fundamental change without holding a referendum.
Although a secular country, the majority of French are Roman Catholics, and it also has the largest Muslim population in western Europe.
Senior religious leaders have condemned the same-sex marriage and adoption laws and many were expected to join yesterday’s protest.
The extremist arm of the movement has seen public stalking of government ministers and a spate of homophobic attacks around the country.
And in January, around 350,000 protesters massed under the Eiffel Tower and tore up the lawns beneath it.
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, one of few French public officials who is openly gay, headed a rival march yesterday in favour of same-sex marriage and said that it was too late for anything to derail the law.
Hollande, who is grappling with the lowest popularity ratings of any recent French president as unemployment surges above 10 per cent, hoped to win some glory from passing a reform already in place in a dozen other countries.