Sunday, December 16 was a big day in the streets of Paris.
It was the day of …
La Manifestation pour l’Égalité
The March for Equality
About a month ago, I posted an article here about the current debate in France over marriage equality and other family rights for LGBT persons. The government of President François Hollande had just announced a proposed law that would open civil marriage to same-sex couples, and the reaction was quick and malicious. Less than two weeks after the announcement, the opposition took to the streets in Paris and other French cities and — spouting blatant lies and disgusting innuendo about people like me — made their minority view very much heard. The demonstration in Paris even turned physically violent in the face of counter-protest. It was enough to sadden us and anger us … but it was also enough to motivate us to take to the streets ourselves on Sunday afternoon to make our voices heard.
The fact of the matter is that some 60% of the French support marriage equality (even if slightly less than half support adoption rights), and it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that the proposed law will pass, since President Hollande’s Socialist Party controls both the Senate and the National Assembly in coalition with other left-wing parties. So why create a big hullabaloo in the streets if we’re going to get what we want anyway? The answer is two-fold:
1. We don’t want just marriage equality; we want family equality. That includes rights that aren’t part of the proposed legislation as currently drafted, like the right to assisted conception and filiation.
2. The cardinal rule of any social movement is that you can never ignore hateful rhetoric from those who insult your integrity and seek to oppress you; you have to make your voice heard.
So, Sunday afternoon at 2 pm, Michel and I made our way to Place de la Bastille, where we joined the ranks of at least 100,000 other brothers and sisters in this struggle, and we marched two miles — shoulder to shoulder — to the Jardin du Luxembourg. It would normally take about 30 minutes to walk that distance, but there were so many demonstrators at the starting point, we didn’t even step off until 3:30. In hindsight, that was a good thing. Kemo — one of my American friends here in Paris — and his French partner stumbled across us in that enormous crowd; he finally got to meet my husband, and I finally got to meet his! I even made an unlikely new friend: Michael, another American who just happened to be in Paris this week and decided to check out the march. During the interminable wait at Place de la Bastille, he saw the signs Michel and I had on our backs (with their little Franco-American hearts), and he came up and asked me if I was an American. We became fast friends, and he ended up walking with us for the entire march and hanging out with us and our friends at a Christmas party afterwards.
To be honest, we were both a little concerned about what might happen during the demonstration given the violence that occurred in November. Right before the march started, in fact, I was verbally assaulted by a homophobic, anti-semitic little grandmother who finished her tirade by telling me in German to “get out.” It was shocking and a bit surreal. I loudly and repeatedly wished her a nice day as an antidote to her hateful venom, but I don’t think I made much progress with her as she scurried away to crawl back under her rock. During the slow, hour-and-half progress to our destination, I kept wondering if we’d have to endure more menacing counter-protesters, but they were conspicuous by their absence. As far as my eye could see, we were surrounded by nothing but positive energy, warm feelings, and abounding hope for the change that’s on the horizon.
December 16, 2012 was a good day, dear readers, for Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité — Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood — and I feel proud and honored to have been a part of it.
Check out this gallery of images from the march:
(Si vous apparaissez sur une photo et voudriez qu’elle soit enlevée, veuillez me contacter. Celle-ci sera supprimée immédiatement.)
(If you can’t see all the photos below, refresh the page, or simply click one of the images — or the white space if nothing appears — and the gallery will open.)
P.S. — Read what happened next!
© 2012 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved