Liberty, equality, fraternity goes the French motto and it now looks like the country is legally living up to its' ideals on the issue of same-sex marriage. April 23rd, 2013 saw France become another country to approve a law allowing gay marriage. The bill, which also legalised adoption by same-sex couples, was passed by 321 votes to 225 in the French parliament on a day which saw hundreds of opponents of the measure rallying outside the National Assembly building in central Paris. The conservative opposition, alongside these campaigners, are now taking the issue to the constitutional council, but it seems unlikely that the council will move to block the measure.
It is being viewed as one of the biggest social reforms in France since Francois Mitterrand abolished the death penalty in 1981 and a divisive public debate has arisen on the issue with some of the largest protests seen in France in recent years taking place. A prime example of one such demonstration took place in January. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Paris where three big marches converged on the Champs de Mars next to the Eiffel Tower.
Supporters have described same-sex marriage as a universal human rights issue, equality before the law and it would certainly seem political support for gay rights is gathering momentum but is it actually becoming less of an issue across Europe? Ten countries that have legalised same-sex marriage so far are situated in Europe; a further fourteen European countries have legalised civil unions or other forms of recognition for same-sex couples, while Scotland and Ireland are considering legislation to introduce same sex marriage. In Britain, same sex marriage laws were finally granted approval in July this year with the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaderships all backing the proposals, which were finally approved by MP's and peers.
For many, this legal recognition for same sex couples is marking the end of the centuries-old understanding of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman across Europe; however is this the end of the issue or not?
Well in reality the answer is no...The European Union prides itself in being an institution that promotes equality and non-discrimination based upon your sexual orientation; a notion which was incorporated into the Treaty of Amsterdam. Yet with member states all in agreement, there are some that do little to actively promote equality for the LGBT community. In particular, catholic countries such as Italy and Poland who are members of the EU, are a very long way behind some of their counterparts. They will allow couples to live together but do not recognize any kind of commitment between homosexuals. Couples moving from one member state to another may not receive any legal recognition at all. When EU members have all agreed on common values and principles, why does this division still exist?
It appears that despite there being great leaps forward with the issue of same sex marriage in Europe, it is still a matter that needs to be addressed in order for millions to enjoy the equality and freedoms that others can. There are, without doubt many more pressing problems that require attention but that doesn't mean same sex marriage should be forgotten about completely.
The fight isn't over just yet.