March 11, 2014
Protests force France's Hollande to rethink family policy
France's Socialist government has dropped plans to update family law this year after huge weekend protests by conservatives against gay-friendly reforms they say harm traditional families.
The government tried to reassure protesters, who yesterday numbered over 100,000 in Paris and Lyon, that the new law would not legalise assisted procreation for lesbian couples or surrogate motherhood for gay men who wanted children.
But when Socialist lawmakers insisted they would amend the planned bill to include those reforms, the government announced the draft law - which would also define the legal rights of step-parents in second marriages - needed more work.
"The government will not submit a family reform bill before the end of the year," the prime minister's office said.
Yesterday's protesters, many of the Catholics but also some Muslims, tapped continued resentment against the legalisation of gay marriage last year to pressure the government not to go further and allow ways to help gays have their own children.
Protest leaders accused the government of "family-phobia" and said government assurances the family law would not include those reforms were lies. French law only allows assisted reproduction for married couples with infertility problems.
The government's retreat showed that, with President Francois Hollande's popularity near rock bottom and municipal elections coming up next month, it is eager to avoid further conflicts with increasingly frustrated centre-right voters.
One of Hollande's aides told journalists the priority was instead fighting near-record unemployment and pushing through a tax break scheme meant to get companies hiring again.