Reflections on the Revolution in France

 

Hundreds of thousands gathered in a massive demonstration in Paris last weekend to protest President Francois Hollande’s plan to legalize so-called gay marriage and adoption by gay couples. The diverse coalition included Catholic, Muslim, and Evangelical leaders and laity, secular conservatives and gay people. There was also a rousing performance by French comedian Frigide Barjot. (Get it?)

Many, myself included, were delighted by reports of the event and accompanying photos of the Champ de Mars packed with French citizens waving pink and baby blue signs reading “1 Pere + 1 Mere C’est Elementaire” and “La Manif pour Tous.” (“The Demonstration for All.”) This is France, after all, land of Voltaire, Bohemianism, and Jacques Derrida. France, of the 35-hour work week, subsidized child care, and the aforementioned Socialist President Hollande. Yet, this!

Also fascinating is the rather benign response to the protest from gay marriage advocates in France. Reports state that protestors traveled to and from the site and handed out literature without the sort of red-faced shouting matches one might expect at a similar event in the United States and elsewhere.

What explains such unusual circumstances? What can marriage preservationists in the States learn from these events?

One lesson is the importance of a legitimate alternative to marriage that provides legal protection to important personal relationships. France legalized civil solidarity pacts (PACS), a legal alternative to marriage available to any two adults, in 1999. Though the scope of PACS is more limited than marriage licensure, they provide a means for same-sex couples desiring formal legal recognition of their commitment to–and responsibility for–one another. (It is worth noting that the vast majority of PACS in France are between opposite-sex couples.)

A second lesson is the widespread recognition of the important role of families to the functioning of civil society in France. Growing concern about fertility rates below replacement levels led the government to enact numerous programs to incentivize bigger families, including liberal paid maternity leave, tax credits, and child care subsidies. The French, including many who have no moral objection to homosexuality, recognize the basic point that children benefit from intact homes including the unique contributions of both a mother and a father.

Marriage preservationists like me would do well to allow these lessons to influence our efforts. We should present a viable alternative to marriage that offers legal recognition to the range of interpersonal relationships lacking sufficient status to confer important benefits including, but not limited to, same-sex romantic couples. We should also augment conservative arguments against things like the death tax with consideration of its unfair application to non-married couples who wish to bestow inheritances to their loved ones.

As an evangelical Christian, I am unwilling to neglect my faith’s teaching on the morality of homosexual behavior. However, arguing solely on the basis of Christian sexual ethics is insufficient in America’s diverse public square. That marriage is inherently related to the creation and rearing of children, and that the right of children to a mother and a father is sacrosanct, are both broadly applicable and compelling.

New polling shows that the marriage movement is changing the French public’s attitudes about the meaning and importance of marriage. Despite the narrative of inevitability so widely promulgated in American media, the domestic debate is far from settled. 

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Members have made 89 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar
    James Of England
     

    The defense of marriage is properly aimed at substantively defending marriage, not at headlines.

    The French put their money where their mouth is wrt natalist, pro-child policies. (child care, maternity leave, etc.) Their pro-family actions are positive (things that concretely help families with children) rather than just negative (excluding gay people from marriage).

    The US also has pro-child policies; welfare reform is amongst the foremost successes of the American, conservative, form of state child support. It also provides tax deductions and so on for children. That someone does not call for the state to do something does not signify a lack of support for that thing.

    Nanda Panjandrum: I was…… dismayed to see my ISP’s login page describe the event as an “anti-gay protest”.

    When they’re protesting the Govt’s intention to give gay partnerships the same value and respect as it does heterosexual partnerships, then it really seems as if the MSM narrative is basically grounded in truth.

    “I’m not anti-gay, I’m just pro-traditional marriage’ seems glib and evasive to me. ·

    You do not believe it possible to honestly oppose SSM without anti-gay animus?

    • #1
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:00 am
  2. Profile photo of Trace Inactive

    My understanding was that organizers carefully scripted the event including signage.

    But the connection between the benefits of a mother and father and opposing gay marriage is far from obvious. Unless of course the attendees at the rally were making the point that gay couples should be prevented from raising children. Was that the point?

    Can you connect in a more concrete way how discouraging same sex marriage is supposed to encourage the formation of nuclear families?

    I suppose the argument is about slippery slopes, but it seems quite esoteric. Why not protest easy divorce laws, or the subsidization of single-parent households. Or why not be intellectually honest and protest same sex parental adoptions?

    • #2
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:02 am
  3. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member
    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    One lesson is the importance of a legitimate alternative to marriage that provides legal protection to important personal relationships.

    In Texas, hosptial visitation rights and various other liberties have been ensured apart from marriage licenses. Do you think that has mollified the gay lobby?

    They seek validation, not freedom.

    • #3
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:17 am
  4. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member

    The Province of Alberta also brought in legal partnerships for any two adults, so same-sex couples, siblings or even roommates could share things like health benefits, etc.

    In the end, it didn’t stop gay marriage from being imposed at the federal level.

    • #4
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:21 am
  5. Profile photo of Brian Clendinen Member

    Wait a minute, I heard multiple time on the news and they said thousands not hundreds of thousands. Can MSM not do math, or do they only read AP headlines and not the first sentence. Buy 340 thousand is whole magnitudes different in importance than thousands.

    • #5
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:42 am
  6. Profile photo of Jeff Schulte Inactive

    Another example of this being a cultural battle and not one for legal rights – NJ has civil unions, but the push is still on to impose gay marriage.

    • #6
    • January 17, 2013 at 1:59 am
  7. Profile photo of Leslie Watkins Member

    I like the idea of PACS (legal recognition of intimate partnerships in another form; I’ve long stopped concerning myself with validation—by straight people and gay folks alike). However, I wonder if the prevalence of PACS among opposite-sex partners belies a decrease in interest in traditional marriage as a result of ever increasing divorce rates and associated legal battles. If so, it would argue strongly for a greater concern with divorce, which seems to me to be damaging marriage far more than gay people suddenly clamoring for acceptance in this way. (The irony will be that if marriage does become something that gays are allowed to do, you’re going to find lots of gay people regretting it, once the breakups inevitably occur and the state takes a genuine interest in each other’s property.)

    • #7
    • January 17, 2013 at 2:52 am
  8. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member
    Leslie Watkins:

    However, I wonder if the prevalence of PACS among opposite-sex partners belies a decrease in interest in traditional marriage as a result of ever increasing divorce rates and associated legal battles. 

    I’m not sure. Do we know how many of those opposite-sex PACS are romantic relationships, compared to the number that aren’t, such as someone taking care of their elderly aunt who wants to add her to their health insurance, or whatnot?

    • #8
    • January 17, 2013 at 2:59 am
  9. Profile photo of Leslie Watkins Member
    Misthiocracy
    Leslie Watkins:

    However, I wonder if the prevalence of PACS among opposite-sex partners belies a decrease in interest in traditional marriage as a result of ever increasing divorce rates and associated legal battles. 

    I’m not sure. Do we know how many of those opposite-sex PACS are romantic relationships, compared to the number that aren’t, such as someone taking care of their elderly aunt who wants to add her to their health insurance, or whatnot? · 2 minutes ago

    Good point, though is it necessary in France to have a formal partnership in order to get better health care? I was thinking in terms of common law marriage, which I believe is still legal in many states and that I suspect involves couples without children (though I don’t know).

    • #9
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:05 am
  10. Profile photo of Leslie Watkins Member
    • #10
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:09 am
  11. Profile photo of Misthiocracy Member
    Leslie Watkins
    Misthiocracy
    Leslie Watkins:

    However, I wonder if the prevalence of PACS among opposite-sex partners belies a decrease in interest in traditional marriage as a result of ever increasing divorce rates and associated legal battles. 

    I’m not sure. Do we know how many of those opposite-sex PACS are romantic relationships, compared to the number that aren’t, such as someone taking care of their elderly aunt who wants to add her to their health insurance, or whatnot?

    Good point, though is it necessary in France to have a formal partnership in order to get better health care? I was thinking in terms of common law marriage, which I believe is still legal in many states and that I suspect involves couples without children (though I don’t know). 

    I dunno the answer regarding France, but the lack of a requirement for a “romantic” relationship is the big distinction between a “PAC” and a common law marriage. A “PAC” is an agreement between any two adults. I don’t believe they even need to be living together.

    • #11
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:12 am
  12. Profile photo of Zafar Member
    James Of England

    The US also has pro-child policies; welfare reform is amongst the foremost successes of the American, conservative, form of state child support. It also provides tax deductions and so on for children. That someone does not call for the state to do something does not signify a lack of support for that thing.

    It’s a matter of degree, and perhaps method and agenda, isn’t it? Wrt welfare reform – I honestly *do* recognise the awfulness of warehousing generation after generation on the dole. Otoh, how can *more* children growing up hungry be called a success? Isn’t there another way of getting from Point A to Point B?

    You do not believe it possible to honestly oppose SSM without anti-gay animus? · 24 minutes ago

    Of course it’s possible – it just seems very rare, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the genuinely dominant voice for the position. A lot of opposition seems to come from people who are deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality itself, and are ill at ease with gay people. It comes across as either open hostility, or more often as smug glibness.

    • #12
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:16 am
  13. Profile photo of Mrs. of England Member
    Aaron Miller
    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    One lesson is the importance of a legitimate alternative to marriage that provides legal protection to important personal relationships.

    In Texas, hosptial visitation rights and various other liberties have been ensured apart from marriage licenses. Do you think that has mollified the gay lobby?

    In the UK the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 gave same-sex couples rights that are identical to hetrosexual civil marriage – including property rights, state benefits, parental rights, rights of next of kin, pensions, insurance, etc. You can also dissolve the partnership like a divorce.Enshrining these rights in law has not stopped the call for full “gay marriage” and recently the government has proposed a bill that would legalise this. Provisions that have been proposed to protect religious institutions from having to perform these “marriages” have, in the last few days, been shown to be able to be legally challenged, and, if the law is enacted, means churches could be sued if they refused to perform such unions. I have no doubt that the first church to refuse to marry a gay couple will be taken to court immediately just to prove a point!
    • #13
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:19 am
  14. Profile photo of Leslie Watkins Member

    double post

    • #14
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:22 am
  15. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar
    James Of England

    The US also has pro-child policies; welfare reform is amongst the foremost successes of the American, conservative, form of state child support.

    It’s a matter of degree, and perhaps method and agenda, isn’t it? Wrt welfare reform – I honestly *do* recognise the awfulness of warehousing generation after generation on the dole. Otoh, how can *more* children growing up hungry be called a success? Isn’t there another way of getting from Point A to Point B?

    Welfare reform strengthened families, empowered women, and got more parents working. My understanding is that child poverty fell after welfare reform passed; do you have contrary statistics on child hunger, or is this the same reflexive bigotry that assumes that the big government solution is superior elsewhere in family policy?

    I say this because it’s clear to me that, since the native French birth rate is dramatically lower than the US birth rate, the difference is not one of degree, with the French having bigger families. There is more than one way from A to B, but “concrete steps to help” only seem necessarily better to those who do not understand their Bastiat.

    • #15
    • January 17, 2013 at 3:56 am
  16. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar
    You do not believe it possible to honestly oppose SSM without anti-gay animus? · 24 minutes ago

    Of course it’s possible – it just seems very rare, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the genuinely dominant voice for the position. A lot of opposition seems to come from people who are deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality itself, and are ill at ease with gay people. It comes across as either open hostility, or more often as smug glibness. · 39 minutes ago

    So, just to be clear, because a lot of opposition to SSM comes from homophobes, rather than feeling that it is important for defenders of traditional marriage to distance themselves from that homophobia, you object to the distancing?

    Do you believe, for instance, that Nanda Panjandrum is a homophobe? Do you see homophobic messaging as a dominant portion of the march’s messaging, or is it simply the case that you agree with the vile characterization that Nanda complains about; i.e. that the defense of traditional marriage is intrinsically homophobic. This goes beyond your claim that there are many homophobes in the movement to defend marriage.

    • #16
    • January 17, 2013 at 4:03 am
  17. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    I have always felt that there should be a legal domestic partnership option available as a matter of secular even-handedness. Apart from covenant marriage, the PAC is about Caesar, not God, and we are thus rendering to Caesar as Jesus instructed us. 

    The issue with gay marriage is that adoptions should be first preferentially available to straight married couples, period– based on a long and solid set of research findings. If gay marriage were equalized, then such preferences would be set aside as a matter of course as part of the quest for “normalcy” recognition as described by Leslie.

    Is there a slippery slope here? Sure- just as with most tough public policy issues. That doesn’t mean that we avoid them- the devil is always in the details, and we simply have to keep working.

    • #17
    • January 17, 2013 at 4:37 am
  18. Profile photo of Zafar Member
    James Of England

    Welfare reform strengthened families, empowered women, and got more parents working. My understanding is that child poverty fell after welfare reform passed

    The reforms worked well when times were good, but when they went bad there was less of a safety net.

    http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/us_hunger_facts.htm

    From which:

    Three years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. The financial and economic crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in the United States. This high level of hunger continues in 2010, according to the latest government report (with the most recent statistics) released in September 2011 (Coleman-Jensen 2011).

    • In 2010, 17.2 million households, 14.5 percent of households (approximately one in seven), were food insecure, the highest number ever recorded in the United States(Coleman-Jensen 2011, p. v.) …
    • #18
    • January 17, 2013 at 4:49 am
  19. Profile photo of Zafar Member
    James Of England

    …you object to the distancing?

    1 Instead of ‘distancing’ yourself you might differentiate your social positions from homophobic, or anti-gay, ones. (They are not synonymous. Someone can find homosexuality unacceptable for religious reasons without being personally squicked by gay people.)

    2 Honestly look at what SSM means for gay people, and what refusing to acknowledge it means *for* them. You very kindly shared a link with me – interesting, thank you – so tell me, what are the *unintended* negative consequences for society of privileging heterosexual unions over homosexual unions? (Or heterosexuality over homosexuality – given that they both seem innate to individuals.) Are the negative consequences felt equally, or more in one section of society? Why would they feel this is a good thing? You can see it would be a hard sell to justify it to *them*, right?

    3 We are known by the company we keep. If you don’t want to be linked to homophobes, don’t give them a platform, don’t accept their support even when convenient. How many ‘supporters of traditional marriage’ have you seen taking a more than token stand against antigay violence?

    4 I do not know Nanda.

    • #19
    • January 17, 2013 at 5:08 am
  20. Profile photo of katievs Inactive
    Misthiocracy

    I dunno the answer regarding France, but the lack of a requirement for a “romantic” relationship is the big distinction between a “PAC” and a common law marriage. A “PAC” is an agreement between any two adults. I don’t believe they even need to be living together. 

    This is something I could get behind. It accommodates the legitimate concerns of the gay lobby without any bogus moral equivalence and without degrading the unique natural institution of marriage.

    • #20
    • January 17, 2013 at 5:33 am
  21. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar

    1 Instead of ‘distancing’ yourself you might differentiate your social positions from homophobic, or anti-gay, ones. (They are not synonymous. Someone can find homosexuality unacceptable for religious reasons without being personally squicked by gay people.)

    Can you give an example of an anti-SSM argument, in short form, suitable for a protest placard, that you would find acceptable? Could you differentiate between your acceptable anti-SSM argument and the ones used in France that you described as anti-gay? Since you were talking about people being “deeply uncomfortable with homosexuality itself, and are ill at ease with gay people”, I don’t understand your point about non-homophobic anti-gay people.

    3 We are known by the company we keep. If you don’t want to be linked to homophobes, don’t give them a platform, don’t accept their support even when convenient. How many ‘supporters of traditional marriage’ have you seen taking a more than token stand against antigay violence?

    Did the French march give a platform to homophobia?

    In general, social conservatives support harsher criminal sentencing than social liberals.

    4 I do not know Nanda.

    You don’t know the French marchers, either.

    • #21
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:03 am
  22. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar

    2 Honestly look at what SSM means for gay people, and what refusing to acknowledge it means *for* them. You very kindly shared a link with me – interesting, thank you – so tell me, what are the *unintended* negative consequences for society of privileging heterosexual unions over homosexual unions? (Or heterosexuality over homosexuality – given that they both seem innate to individuals.) …… You can see it would be a hard sell to justify it to *them*, right?

    I strongly suspect that I’ve spent more time in pride law sessions than you have, and have a weaker suspicion that I’ve spent more time discussing SSM with gays, although my focus was more on trans issues. I don’t recall the link I sent you, but I assure you that it is not unfamiliarity with the subject that forms my views.

    I’m not sure if you’re aware of the hostility towards bisexuals that has traditionally accompanied the “innate” line, but it’s not as pleasant a claim as you might think.

    I agree that marriage definitions are a hard sell for many, but not all, gays, and that gay couples benefit from SSM, as do wealthy Americans generally.

    • #22
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:10 am
  23. Profile photo of outstripp Inactive

    Gay marriage is a form of hate speech. It is a way of saying, “I hate traditional society.”

    • #23
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:20 am
  24. Profile photo of Zafar Member
    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    Also fascinating is the rather benign response to the protest from gay marriage advocates in France. Reports state that protestors traveled to and from the site and handed out literature without the sort of red-faced shouting matches one might expect at a similar event in the United States and elsewhere.

    What explains such unusual circumstances? What can marriage preservationists in the States learn from these events?

    1 It’s a done deal. The current French Government intends to pass legislation re marriage equality. It has the numbers. Gay marriage advocates don’t have that much to argue about over there any more.

    2 Religion in France doesn’t play the same sort of role in public life and culture that it does in the US. This has been more or less true since the French Revolution. This reduces the whole ‘sin vs good’ angle which tends to overwhelm the discussion in the US.

    • #24
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:27 am
  25. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar
    James Of England

    The reforms worked well when times were good, but when they went bad there was less of a safety net.

    You link to an article which claims that trade is the primary cause of world poverty. This wasn’t the recession that most closely followed welfare reform. During that recession, if you look at the USDA paper that they take their facts from (also a piece of liberal activism, but less absurd), you can see that child hunger actually fell.

    I fully accept that the positive effects in terms of increased employment were counterbalanced by the increase in the minimum wage in 2007, and that the suspension of welfare reform measures during the current economic downturn have mitigated its impact. Nonetheless, I think the slowing of the destruction of the inner city family remains a valuable support for, well, the family, even today. It’s not just a question of how much money is coming in, but also of power distribution within the family and of the source of the money.

    Plus, while the hunger rate does look bad compared to the numbers under Bush, they look less bad compared to the Clinton years.

    • #25
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:34 am
  26. Profile photo of Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor Contributor

    I am impressed by the quality of thought here. Thank you all for taking my ideas so seriously and responding with such consideration!

    I don’t expect making some form of legal recognition available to same-sex couples will satisfy the demand for so-called “gay marriage.” I agree with many of you who point out that a major goal of the gay lobby is erasing the distinction between hetero and homosexual relationships. That distinction matters and must be maintained. However, I do think providing PACS or reciprocal beneficiary arrangements or some other such deal removes two planks in the case against traditional marriage, eliminating concerns about hospital visitation rights, inheritances, and the like while offering legal recognition of a couple’s commitment to one another. Removing these arguments leaves primarily the argument of “sameness” which is, I think, easily won by focusing on the unique contributions of both mothers and fathers in child bearing and raising.

    • #26
    • January 17, 2013 at 6:59 am
  27. Profile photo of James Of England Moderator
    Zafar
    Eric Teetsel, Guest Contributor:

    What explains such unusual circumstances? What can marriage preservationists in the States learn from these events?

    1 It’s a done deal. The current French Government intends to pass legislation re marriage equality. It has the numbers. Gay marriage advocates don’t have that much to argue about over there any more.

    2 Religion in France doesn’t play the same sort of role in public life and culture that it does in the US. This has been more or less true since the French Revolution. This reduces the whole ‘sin vs good’ angle which tends to overwhelm the discussion in the US.

    Agreed. NOM et.. al. can learn things from the details, but usefully learning big picture lessons from the failing French campaign seems implausible. The defense of marriage is properly aimed at substantively defending marriage, not at headlines. For the moment, I believe that it’s just a matter of defending marriage in the red/purple states; retaking the blue states is probably a decade away at best, and likely longer. The French battle might have been useful in New York, but Paris is really not politically similar to Oklahoma City.

    • #27
    • January 17, 2013 at 8:34 am
  28. Profile photo of Nanda Panjandrum Inactive
    Nanda Panjandrum

    I was, in equal measure, heartened when I read fellow Member dash’s post about this gathering on Sunday 1/13 and dismayed to see my ISP’s login page describe the event as an “anti-gay protest”. Will we *ever* change the MSM’s narrative?

    • #28
    • January 17, 2013 at 9:36 am
  29. Profile photo of Astonishing Inactive

    Regarding accusations of homophobia: I believe sex between persons of the same sex is seriously morally wrong. I also believe it is morally wrong to encourage or approve it However, I neither hate nor fear homosexuals. Does that make me a homophobe? Or is that accusation used to attempt to shame me into silence and to make my opinion socially unacceptable? I don’t go around in my everyday life telling every homosexual I meet that he’s doing wrong. But if the question is raised in a context that solicits my opinion, I will express my opinion.

    • #29
    • January 17, 2013 at 11:05 am
  30. Profile photo of Zafar Member
    James Of England
     

    The defense of marriage is properly aimed at substantively defending marriage, not at headlines.

    The French put their money where their mouth is wrt natalist, pro-child policies. (child care, maternity leave, etc.) Their pro-family actions are positive (things that concretely help families with children) rather than just negative (excluding gay people from marriage).

    Nanda Panjandrum: I was, in equal measure, heartened when I read fellow Member dash’s post about this gathering on Sunday 1/13 and dismayed to see my ISP’s login page describe the event as an “anti-gay protest”. Will we *ever* change the MSM’s narrative? · 53 minutes ago

    When they’re protesting the Govt’s intention to give gay partnerships the same value and respect as it does heterosexual partnerships, then it really seems as if the MSM narrative is basically grounded in truth.

    “I’m not anti-gay, I’m just pro-traditional marriage’ seems glib and evasive to me.

    • #30
    • January 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm
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