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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Perilous April, 2013 as France, New Zealand and Uruguay legalize same sex marriage

A same sex marriage activist dressed as a bride, right, jokes with congressional guards outside Parliament where lawmakers are expected to vote on a same sex marriage law in Montevideo, Uruguay, Wednesday, April 10, 2013.

France legalizes gay marriage despite angry protests


By Nancy Ing and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News

France became the 14th country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed Tuesday, when its parliament approved a law that has sparked often violent street protests and a rise in homophobic attacks.

Lawmakers in the lower house National Assembly, where President Francois Hollande’s Socialists have an absolute majority, passed the bill by 331 votes for and 225 against.

The law also allows same-sex couples to adopt children.

“I hope people across the country will celebrate this moment,” Martin Gaillard, a 31-year-old advocate of gay marriage, told English-language news site

Opponents of the law have held increasingly angry protests in recent weeks, including a string of confrontations with police in Paris.

They fought hard to scuttle the parliamentary bill because it also allows the use of surrogate motherhood by gay couples wanting children.

The debate is also blamed for fanning a spate of homophobic attacks, including the beating up of a 24-year-old in the southern city of Nice on Saturday, Reuters reported.

Thomas Samson / AFP - Getty Images
Protesters converged on Paris from all over France to protest same-sex marriage, which is supported by President Francois Hollande.

Protesters in France: Gay marriage would hurt children

By Tom Heneghan, Reuters

PARIS - Several hundred thousand people converged at the Eiffel Tower in Paris Sunday to protest President Francois Hollande's bill to legalize same-sex marriage by June.

Protesters waved pink and blue flags showing a father, mother and two children. Many had taken long train and bus rides from outside Paris.

Hollande has pledged to push through a same-sex marriage law with his Socialist party’s parliamentary majority, but his opponents have dented public support and forced deputies to put off a plan to allow lesbian couples access to artificial insemination.

Same-sex marriage is recognized in 11 countries including Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Norway and South Africa. In the U.S., it is legal in nine states and in Washington, D.C.

Champ de Mars, the long park between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire, was packed Sunday, with organizers claiming 800,000 protesters, but police more conservatively estimating 340,000 – a large turnout even in France, where protests are a way of life.

"Nobody expected this two or three months ago," said Frigide Barjot, a flamboyant comedian leading the demonstration. At the rally, she read aloud a letter to Hollande asking him to withdraw the bill and hold a public debate on the issue.

Strongly supported by the Catholic Church, opponents of same-sex marriage have mobilized practicing Catholics, members of the extreme far-right Front National party, some Muslims, evangelicals and even a few openly gay people.
They argue that same-sex marriage would cause psychological and social harm to children, which they believe should trump the desire for equal rights for gay adults.

Organizers insist they do not oppose gays and lesbians but rather support what they say are the rights of children to have a father and a mother. Slogans on the posters and banners read, "Marriagophile, not homophobe," "All born of a father and mother" and "Paternity, maternity, equality."

"The French are tolerant, but they are deeply attached to the family and the defense of children," said Daniel Liechti, vice-president of the National Council of French Evangelicals, which urged its members to join the march.

Their efforts appear to have had an impact. Surveys indicate that popular support for gay marriage in France has slipped about 10 points to less than 55 percent since opponents started speaking out. Fewer than half of those polled recently favored giving gay couples adoption rights.

Under this pressure, French legislators dropped a plan that would allow lesbian couples access to artificial insemination.

Hollande's office, recognizing the “substantial” turnout Sunday, said it will not be swayed and that it will continue to push for a law recognizing same-sex marriage. 

Gay-rights supporters celebrate at a bar in Wellington, New Zealand Wednesday.

New Zealand becomes 13th country to legalize gay marriage  

By Naomi Tajitsu, Reuters

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- New Zealand's parliament voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage on Wednesday, prompting cheers, applause and the singing of a traditional Maori celebratory song from the public gallery.

It becomes the 13th country to legalize same-sex marriages, after Uruguay passed its own law last week. Australia last year rejected a similar proposal.

"Two-thirds of parliament have endorsed marriage equality," Louisa Wall, the openly gay opposition Labor Party MP who promoted the bill, told reporters after the vote. "It shows that we are building on our human rights as a country."

The bill was widely expected to pass, given similar support for the change in a preliminary vote held last month. It will likely come into effect in August.

The bill was opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and some conservative religious, political and social groups which campaigned that it would undermine the institution of the family.

The law makes it clear that clergy can decline to preside in gay marriages if they conflict with their beliefs.

New Zealand gave same-sex relationships partial legal recognition in 2005 with the establishment of civil unions.

"I have a boyfriend, so it means we can get married, which is a good thing," said Timothy Atkins, a student who was among a crowd listening to the hearing in the parliamentary lobby.

"It's important to be seen as equal under the law."

Countries where such marriages are legal include Canada, Spain and Sweden, in addition to some states in the United States. France is close to legalizing same-sex marriages amid increasingly vocal opposition.

Seventy-seven of 121 members of New Zealand’s parliament voted in favor of amending the current 1955 Marriage Act to allow same-sex couples to marry, making New Zealand the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to do so.


Uruguay approves gay marriage, second in region to do so

8:17pm, EDT

By Diego Perez and Hilary Burke, Reuters

MONTEVIDEO —  Uruguay's Congress passed a bill on Wednesday to allow same-sex marriages, making it the second country in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America to do so.

Seventy-one of 92 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress voted in favor of the proposal, one week after the Senate passed it by a wide majority. Leftist President Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla fighter, is expected to sign the bill into law.

"I agree that family is the basis of society but I also believe that love is the basis of family. And love is neither homosexual nor heterosexual," said opposition lawmaker Fernando Amado of the center-right Colorado Party.

Uruguay is the 12th country to pass a law of this kind, according to Human Rights Watch. In Latin America, Argentina also has approved gay marriage and it is allowed in Mexico City and some parts of Brazil.

Roughly half a million people marched through Paris in January to protest the legalization of same-sex marriage, underscoring opposition to the measure in the heart of Western Europe.

In Uruguay, a nation of about 3.3 million people sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, critics of the bill included the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations, which said it would endanger the institution of the family.

"We are opposed to this bill because we understand it distorts and changes the nature of the institution of marriage," said opposition lawmaker Gerardo Amarilla.

Damian Diaz, a 25-year-old teacher who is in a committed relationship with a man, said he was heartened by the move.

"We're definitely going to feel now that we live in a place where we're recognized for who we are, where we get more respect and more acceptance," he told Reuters Television.