Friday, 19 October 2012

Measured religious reactions to marriage equality in France

Below is a non-edited version of my first comment piece for Gay Star News.

Just like in the UK, marriage equality features high up on the news agenda in France. And like in the UK, the most vocal voices against equality come from the right and usually with a religious flavoring.

From the fringes of the main conservative party, Sarkozy's UMP, there have been various mentions of paedophilia, incest or zoophilia as possible consequences of a change in the law. Brigitte Barèges, Christian Vanneste and François Lebel are the main culprits here.

A handful of Mayors have warned that they would disobey the law if it passes, and refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Christine Boutin, who had already distinguished herself by the virulence of her homophobia during the parliamentary debates on PACS in 1999, has called for a referendum on the subject.

So far so sadly familiar.

Religious leaders have, of course, also made themselves heard, none more vocally than the Catholic Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, who also went for paedophilia and incest.

Interestingly though, as the Chief Rabbi publishes a 25 page essay declaring his opposition to extending marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, the rhetoric used by religious leaders seems much more measured than that used in the UK.

This may be due to the well-estabished secular tradition of the country that the arguments presented by the religious to oppose le mariage pour tous (marriage for all) seem to be contained within fairly legitimate and almost reasonable limits.

They seem to be more genuinely against a change in the definition of marriage than we find them in the UK where words usually quickly turn into a homophobic rants or hysterical protestations of persecution.

Even the Catholic Conference of French Bishops, who's leader has declare the idea a "mistake" and ordered a prayer to be read in all churches during a major festival in August this year, seems willing to consider some form of solemnised unions for same-sex couples that would go beyond PACS, as long as it's not called marriage.

The Chief Rabbi acknowledges that it is not possible to negate the reality of same-sex couples and refuses to judge gay people, placing homophobic hate crimes on the same level as racism and anti-semitism. He just can't see marriage being open to non-heterosexual couples for a series of religious and cultural reasons.

Muslims leaders declare themselves mildly "opposed" to the idea for, it seems, no other reason than that Islam forbids it. Again we are very far from the vitriolic statements we have heard here in the UK.

Because of the way marriage celebrations are arranged by the law, British religious organisations feel a keen sense of ownership on the institution. In France, where only civil ceremonies at the Town Hall have legal value (religious ceremonies are nothing but an optional extra), religious groups can not claim marriage for themselves so easily. This may explain the more restrained approached we observe.

Yet it seems that the temptation is still too difficult to resist and religious leaders just can't help sharing their views on the subject with the world.

The tendency, however, seems to be to forget that the propositions only affect civil marriage (it is the same in the UK). As such they have nothing to do with religion. Further more, all those arguments we hear from the French religious only hold if taken in the context of the faith in which they are expressed.

While religious leaders are, of course, welcome to express their views, they shouldn't expect to be given too much credit by a government who seems thankfully determined to press on with the bill and move away for the segregationist regime those people want to perpetuate so dearly.

Separate but equal is, emphatically, not equal.

4 comments:

  1. mon pauvre et cher vieil ami !

    qu'est donc devenu le sacrement conféré
    par frère Léon ?
    aubigny ? tant de fous rires ? tant de lectures ?

    je te conserve mon amitié si tu en veux, mais je suis à tes antipodes

    et en plus tu n'aimes pas Mme Thatcher pour laquelle mon admiration est vive
    décidément...

    au fait, j'ai serré la main à Mickael Nyman dans ma ville le mois dernier, après son concert, avec ma fille et mon épouse

    ce que Hollande mijote est la dernière des hérésies et the plus grande rupture anthropologique possible.

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  2. J'allais dire... en voià une surprise, une surprise agréeable. Malgré tout.

    Je ne suis pas surpris, meme si je suis un peu triste, de te trouver à mes antipodes, comme tu dis.

    Il y a beacoup d'espace (tant geographique, que chronologique et intellectuel) qui me sépare de ces souvenirs que tu évoque. Malgré cela, il en reste quelques traces en moi.

    Moi aussi je me suis trouvé dans la meme piece que Nyman, il y a quelques années, meme si les circonstances m'échappent pour l'instant.

    Les plans de Hollande ne pourrait etre considerés comme une possible hérésie que s'ils concernaient des questions regulières et non séculières comme c'est ici le cas. D'autres societés ont franchis ce pas, certaines recement, d'autres il y a bien plus longtemps. Aucunes ne s'en est portée plus mal.

    Prends soin de toi, mon docte ami, mais, s'il te plait, n'oublie pas que ton marriage et ta famille ne changeront en rien si je gagne les meme droits que toi.

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  3. j'avais presque oublié the big

    je te retrouve aussi dans les deux "r" de mariage... bizarre pour quelqu'un qui a tant lu, et même des astéquas...

    ce n'est pas parce que les anglais roulent à gauche, que des français doivent imposer de rouler à gauche à d'autres français, sans parler de ceux qui veulent rouler où ils veulent, les centristes, et ceux qui préfèrent... reculer...

    ce n'est pas une question de droit, et je reste au civil ! j'ai été marié par le sénateur-maire PS d'une préfecture bourguignonne qui avait les mêmes pratiques que toi
    et si, si. je ne veux pas être parent 1, et je ne veux pas que ma société française évolue ainsi
    je ne vois pas Lytton Strachey, Julien Green et Wilde penser le contraire. vos combats devraient plutôt s'orienter vers l'Egypte et l'Iran où l'on pend pour moins que cela.

    mon pauvre vieux !

    j'ai bu hier du Montsau*** avec un ami à la maison, un homme qui porte une robe (du casimir noir). A toi de chercher !

    en tout bien tout honneur, je regrette les conversations et les fous rires d'internat (que tes lecteurs habituels ne cherchent pas mon adresse !)
    je cherchais ton nom sur internet car je voulais avoir des nouvelles, ayant évoqué hier ton bon souvenir hier

    je n'ose dire que tu mériterais des claques, car je ne veux pas participer à ton plaisir j'allais dire.

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  4. So much for charity.... Ignorance and misinformation didn't take long to surface.

    How disappointing. I thought you were sincere when you offered friendship. Your tone now shows me you weren't. I am sorry that you are now regretting our exchanges. I don't.

    The idea is not to force anyone to do anything. As I said your marriage (spelt rr in English) won't changed and no one will be forced to marry anyone they don't want to. Opponent of marriage equality are the ones imposing their views and ways of doing things on others.

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