The struggle for legalization of same-sex marriage rages in France just as it does in the U.S. After French President François Holland supported same-sex marriage during his election campaign, the French cabinet approved draft legislation legalizing same-sex marriage in November, according to the New York Times. However, advances in LGBTQ rights have roused the anger of the French Religious Right, including L'institut Civitas.
L'institut Civitas, a French right-wing Catholic organization, is a staunch opponents of LGBTQ rights in France. Reuters reports that Civitas has ties to the right-wing National Front and the Society of Saint Pius X. According to its website, Civitas' aim is to prepare Catholic laypeople to restore une France chrétienne, a "Christian France" -- reminiscent of the American Religious Right's ambition to restore a "Christian nation". (See www[dot]civitas-institut[dot]com/content/section/4/26/)
Over the past few weeks, Civitas has organized rallies opposing same-sex marriage in French cities, drawing thousands of supporters as well as colorful FEMEN protesters. At one such rally in November, Civitas president Alain Escada told supporters that same-sex marriage was a "Pandora's box" that would supposedly open the door to polygamous and incestuous marriages, reports Lifesite News.
Similarities between Civitas' rhetoric and American Religious Right rhetoric are striking. In a December 12th blog post entitled "Le 13 janvier, tous à Paris!", Escada belittles same-sex marriage with language similar to that of American anti-gay activists. Escada claims that if France legalizes same-sex marriage, France's future would be jeopardized and children would suffer. Only a man and a woman can bring about the birth of a child, he argues, urging readers to take up activism against same-sex marriage. The fact that love and marriage can be legitimate without the creation of biological offspring was not considered, nor was the fact that couples can nurture and raise children who are not their biological offspring. (See www[dot]civitas-institut[dot]com/content/view/849/1/)
Like its American counterparts, Civitas complains about alleged persecution and anti-Christian sentiment when others criticize its views. For example, in a December 4th commentary entitled "Cet antichristianisme qui se développe en France" ("This Anti-Christianity that Grows in France"), Escada accused opponents of anti-Christian hatred. Escada claimed that protesters at a Symposium for Life event in Biarritz were united by their "visceral" anti-Christian sentiments and their desire to undermine morality and the family. "Pour les fondamentalistes de la laïcité, l'ennemi c'est le christianisme." -- "For fundamentalist secularism, the enemy is Christianity", he wrote. (See www[dot]civitas-institut[dot]com/content/view/851/1/)
To garner public opposition to same-sex marriage, L'institut Civitas urges supporters to sign an online letter rejecting LGBTQ rights. In the letter, Civitas accuses President Hollande of allying with the "homosexual lobby". The letter rejects same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, arguing that such rights violate nature and the laws of God. Predictably, it alleged that such rights would undermine society and the family. Civitas cites the discredited Regnerus study to back up its dubious claim that same-sex families are more likely to produce children with psychopathologies. The letter's most revealing line asserts that marriage is not about love, but about biological reproduction and family unit formation. (See www[dot]nonaumariagehomosexuel[dot]com)
"Le mariage n'est pas une reconnaissance sociale de l'amour mais un engagement du couple à constituer une famille et, de manière biologique et anthropologique, à assurer la pérennité de la société et du pays."L'institut Civitas also smiles on other anti-LGBTQ initiatives in France such as Elus Locaux pour la Famille. Elus Locaux pour la Famille has posted an online statement urging French elected officials to oppose marriage equality. The statement argues that same-sex marriage is "sterile" and "against nature", as the institutions of marriage is supposedly intended to create families. Furthermore, Elus Locaux pour la Famille insists that granting adoption rights to LGBTQ persons would be "contrary to the bests interests of the child." (See www[dot]eluspourlafamille[dot]org)
("Marriage is not a social recognition of love, but a commitment of the couple to start a biological and anthropological family to ensure the sustainability of society and the country.")
French officials have taken note of Civitas' Religious Right activism. Reuters reports that president Francois Hollande announced the creation of an agency that will track separation of church and state in France. The agency would not only focus on radical Islamic groups, but on right-wing Christian groups such as Civitas which push "the limits of legality," Hollande said.
French LGBTQ rights supporters must remain vigilant, keeping a wary eye on their Religious Right as they struggle for LGBTQ equality. In that regard, progressives on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have similar obstacles to overcome.