On May 18, 2013, France became the fourteenth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Francis Holland declared his support for same-sex marriage and adoption for these couples in his 2012 campaign for presidential election. He won the election on May 6th, 2012, and introduced a bill to that effect in November of the same year. The bill was passed with minor amendments, and was challenged on May 17th by an opposition party. The bill was declared constitutional and published the next day.
I think French legislation is interesting, because although it can be challenged, it is for the most part a one-time occurrence. If the constitutional council approves it, it becomes law, and ceases to be challenged. I think that this is part of the reason the French are so notorious for going on strike- it is imperative that they make their voices heard before legislation is passed.
The discussions surrounding same-sex marriage have been fascinating to follow. France is an extremely secular country, which is laid out in their constitution. Throughout history the Catholic Church played a huge role in the government, which has led to a complete separation of church and state in today’s society. From a legal standpoint, the French government felt no reason that same-sex marriage should not be permitted.
I feel that I had an interesting experience surrounding this legislation. I was abroad for a summer program in Paris the summer of 2012, 2 months after Holland declared his intentions regarding same-sex marriage. I happened upon a gay pride parade the first day of my stay in Paris, and having not realized that France was progressive in this sense, was pleasantly surprised to see the public display of support. I followed the legislation with interest, and was able to return to France for a semester in the fall of 2013, after the bill had been published. One of our teachers announced in class about halfway through the semester that he would be gone for a few classes in order to marry his partner of over 20 years. Seeing his joy at finally being able to do something he had dreamed of for such a long time was such a wonderful thing. At that point I really felt that I had come full circle; from learning about this president in French courses, to watching public displays of support, and finally seeing someone affected in such a wonderful way by this legislation. Although the entire country is not completely in support of this bill, I believe that in time the French will take great pride in being a pioneer in legalizing same-sex marriage.
By: Aimee Goffinet
Aimee is a French & International Studies Major and Education Abroad Peer Ambassador at the University of Kentucky. Aimee has participated in three education abroad programs: a winter, UK Sponsored program in India, a summer program in Paris, France with KIIS, and a semester in Grenoble, France with partner CEA.