Hundreds of thousands protested in Paris today (13 January) against the planned legalization of gay marriage in France.
With a bill going before the parliament at the end of this month, France wide opponents travelled to Paris and were led by the centre right opposition, representatives of the Catholic Church and Muslim faith.
Anti-marriage equality campaigners organized five high-speed trains and 900 buses to bring people from provincial towns into the capital.
The organisers of the ‘manif pour tous’ (demo for all) – a play on the marriage equality bill slogan ‘marriage for all’ – estimated that 800,000 protestors had taken part.
The French police, said, however, the figure was closer to 340,000 and one government minister said the turnout was lower than the organisers had predicted, according to the BBC.
Slogans include ‘testicles don’t have eggs’, ’all born of a father and mother’, ‘we don’t want your law, Francois, ‘don’t touch my civil code’ and ‘paternity, maternity, and quality’.
The protestors, starting from three separate points, converged on the Eiffel Tower and were led by Virginie Tellenne, a Parisian socialite and celebrity known by her stage name ‘Frigide Barjot’.
Speaking on a stage below the tower, Barjot said: ‘The president must listen to us. He must put this law on hold’.
Many other figures spoke at the protests, including Jean-Francois Cope, leader of the main center-right opposition party UMP.
He said: ‘This is an important test for Francois Hollande because you can see very clearly that there are millions of French people who are very concerned about this reform’.
Andre Malrait, deputy mayor of Marseille also joined the demonstration and stated: ‘We don’t want this law in France.
It will destroy the family. The government should at least hold a referendum’.
The French President, Francois Hollande, has made it clear in a meeting with France’s religious leaders last week, that he has no intention of abandoning his election pledge to legalize gay marriage in 2013.
The President did, however, offer a concession on medically assisted procreation which will not be part of the bill and hoped this would soften opposition.
Despite the protests, opinion polls have shown consistently that most voters support gay marriage and adoption in France.
In reaction to the protest, Harlem Desir, the leader of the ruling Socialist Party, said: ‘The right to protest is protected in our country, but the Socialists are determined to give the legal right to marry and adopt to all those who love each other.
‘This is the first time in decades in our country that the right and the extreme right are coming into the streets together to deny new rights to the French.’
Supporters of marriage equality are due to stage their own demonstration on 27 January, two days before MPs are set to discuss the bill in parliament.