A massive victory for the Socialists in France’s National Assembly election will allow President FranÃ§ois Hollande to bring in gay marriage and a package of pro-LGBT reforms.
And an announcement today (18 June) promised the first same-sex wedding ceremonies would happen in spring 2013.
Election results from yesterday’s vote are still being counted but the Socialists and their affiliates have won 307 seats in the National Assembly, well over the 289 needed for a majority – polls indicate they could win up to 320 seats.
With President Hollande’s left-wing allies also controlling the Senate, there is now a bigger concentration of power under one party than has been the case for generations in France – allowing rapid progress on reform with little serious right-wing opposition in place.
Full marriage will probably be the quickest change, with a bill to be introduced soon and the first weddings happening by spring next year, if not before.
At the moment gay couples in France, like heterosexuals, can have a PACS or civil solidarity pact, giving some but not all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. Many straight couples ‘upgrade’ this to marriage when they have children.
Now marriage will be open to all – the ceremonies in France are all conducted by civil officials so the issue of religious groups conducting same-sex weddings does not arise.
Joel Bedos, who is based in France but works on global rights for International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) told Gay Star News: ‘63% of French people are for marriage and that includes almost a majority of right wing people too.’
He also believes that French people, whether they were interested in gay marriage or not, used it as an indicator in the election on whether the parties were up to date.
Bedos said: ‘A lot of people had the feeling you had to be modern in order to face the challenges of the future. They felt the world would be moving fast and we have to move along with them.’
But it’s not the only thing France’s new government is now planning to change.
Same-sex partners with children currently only have one of the parents recognized. Now this will be extended to the second mother or father in the relationship.
However, there is no sign that third or four parents, for example when a gay man has a baby with a lesbian couple, will be recognized. And surrogacy rights are also off the agenda for now, according to Bedos.
‘The Green Party said it should be debated and regulated but all the others said people are not ready for it, although that might evolve,’ he said.
However lesbians will get to have fertility treatment. At present a woman has to be in a stable relationship with a man before they can access this. The Socialists have pledged to change that, although some debate can be expected.
Meanwhile, the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood, through fear of them passing on HIV, will be lifted.
Finally the government will bring in a bill so transgender people will no longer have to undergo surgery before their ‘new’ gender is formally recognized.
The details of this change are still unclear and trans people may still need to see a psychiatrist or live for a certain amount of time in the gender before their identification papers can be changed.
Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Spain, Portugal, Iceland and The Netherlands all recognize same-sex marriage already and Britain is likely to join the club soon.
So France’s move may also speed up ‘harmonization’ meaning gay marriages recognized in one country have to be respected everywhere in Europe, whether the individual EU member state wants to or not.
Beyond Europe, however, the impact may be more mixed with homophobes in some countries arguing against decriminalizing gay sex in case it leads to same-sex marriage or introducing specific bans or laws against gay weddings.
Away from LGBT rights, Hollande will use the parliamentary victory to push harder on his anti-austerity economic policies.