France's justice minister confirmed this week that the country's new Socialist government, led by president François Hollande, will introduce a bill this winter to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.
But even if it passes, French gays and lesbians still won't enjoy as many rights as their Canadian counterparts.
That's because France will continue to prevent gay couples from using artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization to conceive. (Heterosexual couples in France have access to assisted reproduction as long as they can prove they've been together for two years.)
French gay couples who manage to have babies together still won’t be allowed to list both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates.
Tatiana Marot, co-chair of the Parisian wing of the Association des Parents Gays et Lesbiens (APGL), says she is thrilled that the ruling Socialist Party is going ahead with promises it made in this year's presidential and parliamentary elections.
Participants in June's 2012 Pride parade in Paris were already eagerly anticipating the new Socialist government's promised bill on marriage.
“This will give equal rights to our children," she tells Xtra
in Paris, "and it opens the door for us to have the same protections as straight couples."
Still, she added later in an e-mail to Xtra
, "What's bring proposed isn't enough. Our children won't be fully protected until the presumption of parenthood is included in our marriages."
The French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, made her announcement in an interview
with the Catholic newspaper La Croix ("The Cross"). She said, "The government is very conscious of all the philosophical and anthropological dimensions of marriage. But we don't believe it should overrule the principle of equality. It is that requirement for equality that we are satisfying with this law."
On the subject of assisted reproduction, Taubira said, "Our bill doesn't include that right. I've noticed that, during consultations we've had with civil society groups, this question keeps coming up. Some people are hostile and others are favourable, but our bill is very clear: It does not include access to assisted reproduction. Nor will surrogate parenthood be legalized. The president was always clear about that during his election campaign."
Marot's partner is expecting a baby next March, right around the time the government's bill is expected to be debated. Like many gay couples, Marot and her partner had to go to a fertility clinic in neighbouring Belgium to conceive their child. They are hopeful that, within the next five years, a French board that reviews bioethical decisions will open up French fertility clinics to gay couples, as well as allow them to have both of their names on their children's birth certificates.
For Michel Barnoud-Couraud, this week's announcement by French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira reassures him that he will finally be able to marry his partner of 16 years. "It's a question of equality," he says. "The right to marry shows that we're just like everyone else."
Barnoud-Couraud is confident that the government's bill will pass. The country's powerful Catholic Church remains opposed to same-sex marriage and adoptions, and the Christian Democratic party is calling for a referendum, but polls consistently show that two-thirds of French people support equal rights.
Marot and Barnoud-Couraud agree that France's Catholic influence is the main reason it's taken so long for the country to embrace changes that were made years ago in Canada and other European nations — and why same-sex adoptions are seen as more controversial than gay marriage.
"The French expect you to be married before you have children," Marot says.
Barnoud-Couraud also blames a French political system that is dominated by men and tilted against women and urban politicians. But a sustained campaign by France's gay community helped tip the balance. The theme for this year's Pride parade in Paris was "L'égalité n'attend plus!" ("Equality won’t wait any longer!")
France's minister for the status of women, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, will answer questions about her government's bill Fri, Sept 14 at 7:30pm at Paris's LGBT Centre, 63 rue Beaubourg.