A French parliamentary commission says ixnay to marriagegay

February 23, 2006 | 50 comments
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A French commission set up by the French National Assembly has concluded that homosexual marriage, adoption by homosexual couples, and medically assisted procreation for homosexual couples should not be permitted by law because they undermine children’s rights. The commission visited Canada, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and UK, and heard testimony from 130 witnesses. The report concludes, “[The Commission] considered the consequences for the child’s development and the construction of his or her identity of creating a fictitious filiation by law – two fathers, or two mothers – which is biologically neither real nor plausible. Diametrically opposed representations were made by the people heard on this point, and they failed to persuade a majority of the Mission to support recognizing a right to a child or a right to marriage, for same-sex couples. A majority of the Mission does not wish to question the fundamental principles of the law of filiation, which are based on the tripartite unit of ‘a father, a mother, a child’, citing the principle of caution. For that reason, that majority also, logically, chose to deny access to marriage to same-sex couples.â€?

This from the land of Sarte and Beauvoir?! (The report, in French, is here.)

50 Responses to A French parliamentary commission says ixnay to marriagegay

  1. Wilfried on February 23, 2006 at 9:53 am

    “This from the land of Sartre and Beauvoir?!”

    Those authors, Matt, are only representative for a tiny fraction of post-war “Rive gauche” intellectuals. Hundreds of French authors, mainly with Christian background, defend quite different principles. Never judge a whole country on the basis of a few intellectuals who managed to draw attention.

  2. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 10:04 am

    Wilfried, Sarte and Beauvoir are just convenient shorthand for the American view that the French are libertines. Within Europe, France is probably considered middle-of-the-pack in that regard, but probably because they’re more culturally prominent than the Netherlands or Scandinavia, they have that distinction here, rightly or wrongly.

  3. Boris Max on February 23, 2006 at 10:30 am

    Sarte and Beauvior? Is that the best you can do to bash the French, Matt? How about Lacan? Foucault (he’d have a field day with this report)? Derrida? Deleuze and Guattari? Everyone in college during May of 1968? If your going to pink- and red- bait, do it well or not at all.

  4. Ivan Wolfe on February 23, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Why do people get so touchy about what seemed to be a rather off hand remark? It sure doesn’t seem like Matt was doing any sort of French bashing there. But, boy, when it comes to France, people sure do get riled up.

    Matt can probably defend himself better than I am doing, but while Wilfried’s reaction seemed at least cautionary and done in good faith, Boris seems to be reading all kinds of nasty things into it. My advice to Boris: chill.

  5. Silus Grok on February 23, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Mon dos, Boris… calme-toi.

  6. Silus Grok on February 23, 2006 at 10:49 am

    On-topic, that report sounds like a bit of light.

  7. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Boris, the report’s conclusion is especially newsworthy because French society is less guided by traditional values than we are. A parallel conclusion by the Bush administration wouldn’t have the same impact because we’d expect a conservative American administration to conclude that gay marriage is bad for children.

    Referencing Sarte and Beauvoir was my way of communicating the dispositional difference between American and French societies, just as a French writer might highlight the difference between American and French attitudes toward capitalism by labeling us “the land of Rockefeller and Gates.”

  8. greenfrog on February 23, 2006 at 11:16 am

    …French society is less guided by traditional values than we are…

    Really?

  9. lyle on February 23, 2006 at 11:37 am

    The irony is great; esp. as many traditional family groups are esp. suspicious of “children’s rights,” esp. the UN Commission, as a tool to undermine families…and low and behold; the French got one right. May we be so lucky.

  10. lyle on February 23, 2006 at 11:38 am

    May we have the same wisdom.

  11. a random John on February 23, 2006 at 11:55 am

    I’m trying to figure out the reason for the pig latin in the title. Is some point being made there? Can we look forward to more silly titles on serious subjects from T&S?

  12. B. Bowen on February 23, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Maybe we can get the French assembly to prohibit any heterosexual criminals from marrying or receiving assistance in procreation. Or really busy businessmen (their absence violates the tripartite unit), or anyone who has ever cheated on a spouse or significant other. Alcoholics, turn in those marriage licenses.

  13. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    ARJ,

    Yes, perhaps the title is too flippant for the subject, we’ve discussed it so much lately that I was trying to mix things up. Hopefully no offense!

  14. Eric on February 23, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks for letting us know about this. Seems like the right track to me from an unsuspected source.

  15. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    And my silly title will help balance our reputation as a staid place of systematically-modal hermeneutically-discursive structurally-dyadic narrative typologies. : )

  16. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    Greenfrog,

    Really

  17. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 23, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Matt, if you’re going to use people’s names as cultural shorthand, you should spell them correctly. Otherwise, people may suspect that you’ve never read them and your cultural bias is based on nothing but third-hand stereotyping.

  18. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Kristine, people who suspect I’ve only read a couple essays by Sart(r)e are onto something. He didn’t keep spelling his name over and over in the essays, however, so I’m not sure why you think reading them should have helped me remember the spelling of his name.

  19. Silus Grok on February 23, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Good heavens… is it just me, or is the snarkiness level around here really high today?

  20. Geoff B on February 23, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Wow, I wonder when people will actually begin commenting on the conclusion of the French report? Matt seems to have hit on something quite interesting.

  21. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 23, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Silus, nah–Matt & I are like brother and sister; that comment should be read as a good-natured noogie.

  22. Wilfried on February 23, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    You’re right, Geoff B (20). I apologize for having started the tangent of the French authors… This conclusion by the French parliamentary commission is indeed extremely interesting and important in the current debates. To reach its conclusions the commission also heard the representatives of the main religions, Olivier Abel of the protestant alliance, chief rabbi Joseph Sitruk, Dalil Boubakeur – head of the muslim council, and Catholic archbishop of Paris, André Vingt-Trois — besides dozens of experts and specialists from all sides over a period of a few years. The focus on the child is no doubt what differentiates this work from similar work in other European countries. We can only wish the French had been quicker: they now trail other countries where the commissions (and next the parliaments) reached different conclusions, but without that focus on the rights of the child. Indeed, often the French have a major influence on what other countries decide, but now they’re late. On the other hand, we should realize the commission’s standpoint is not yet the final decision in the Assemblee nationale. The lobbyists are going to continue the battle.

  23. Geoff B on February 23, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    I wonder what effect France’s large Muslim population (the largest by percentage among EU countries) will have on this debate. I predict it will not be insignificant and, in fact, may be a factor in France not joining Spain and the Scandinavian countries in approving SSM.

  24. Eric Russell on February 23, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    Interesting point about the Muslims, Geoff. I understand that sexual standards are a contributing factor in Muslim’s antipathy towards the West. As such, I’m thinking that a greater acceptance of SSM among Western nations is just going to deepen the divide. (Not that engendering antagonism among the Muslims is itself an argument against SSM, but I think it’s a thought that’s worth some attention.)

  25. Jim F. on February 23, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    Matt: French society is less guided by traditional values than we are

    That’s not my experience of France. Their traditional values aren’t the same as ouirs (though there is considerable overlap), but I think that French society may be more rather than less guided by traditional values than ours. One small example is manners. They remain very important in France (and other European countries) and much less important to us. The examples can easily be multiplied.

    As for the report: this is less surprising if we remember that Freud remains very popular among French intellectuals (though a revised Freud, to be sure–see Lacan. etc.). The conclusion the Commission reached was one advanced by Freudians (as well as religious groups) in Belgium and Holland as part of that public discussion of gay rights, parenting, designation of last names, etc. Their point has been made often, though this may be the first day that it has won the argument.

  26. Jim F. on February 23, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    As Wilfried points out, had the French commission reached its conclusion earlier, there would have been a better chance for Belgium, Holland, Spain, and whoever else to have come to different conclusions than they did.

    Now if only the French would have a commission that came to a better conclusion about “cults.”

  27. Mark B. on February 23, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    Regarding comments 23 and 24: I’d be interested in knowing what percentage of the Muslim population in France are citizens. To the extent that immigrants (and their children) are not citizens, that would obviously reduce their effect on the political decision.

  28. greenfrog on February 23, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    On their views of cults? Fortunately, their values are less constrained by tradition than ours.

  29. Wilfried on February 23, 2006 at 6:17 pm

    Thanks, Jim (25), for pointing out the problem with Matt’s statement: “French society is less guided by traditional values than we are.” We can imagine what Matt had in mind (?), but it needed a response.

    Although I am probably biased as a European, when it comes to “traditional values” I would tend so see at least as many if not more values present in a number of European countries than in the U.S. Since France is the topic, Jim mentioned manners and added “the examples can easily be multiplied”. Of course, we would first need to define “traditional values”. But simply look at divorce rates, marriage metabolism rates (“the number of marriage- and divorce-related transitions that adults and their children undergo”), crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, assault… In any of such categories the per ratio U.S. figures are (much) higher than in France. The U.S., however, have a much higher rate of religiosity. But then there is the paradox that the more religious a nation is, the more crime it has to cope with. Complex matter and stuff for values research…. Anyway, the stereotype that France is a kind of nation of libertines or of Sartrian nihilism is pretty naïve. “Paris by night” for American tourists is not France.

  30. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    Jim and Wilfried,

    By traditional values I was, as you probably know, suggesting the traditional values of chastity, fidelity, pornography and vulgar language. American politicians are unelectable if they’re shacking up, the public demands the FCC censor broadcast television, etc., and these traditional values don’t concern Europe in the same way.

    The examples Wilfried cites aren’t really contrary examples of public morals, I would argue, because greater than 99% of the American public believe it’s immoral to murder, rape, rob, assault, etc., and I think it is that public attitude, rather than the quantity of acts against public morals by the periphery, that define a society’s being “guided by traditional values.”

    (Divorce, which is always hard to measure, is especially difficult to compare across countries because marriage rates vary widely, and couples who cohabitate but never marry don’t show up in government divorce statistics when they “divorce.”)

  31. Geoff B on February 23, 2006 at 6:39 pm

    Wilfried, this depends on your definition of “traditional values.” France’s divorce rate is lower than the US but so is its marriage rate. Fewer and fewer French are getting married, so of course fewer of them are divorcing. One of the key indicators is out of wedlock births as a percentage of total births (this is certainly the most pertinant figure for this thread). In France, the figure is now over 50 percent, meaning more than half of French births are to unmarried people. In the US, the figure is about 35 percent.

    Citations:

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/unmarry.htm

    http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_France.pdf

  32. Steven B on February 23, 2006 at 7:10 pm

    In France, the figure is now over 50 percent, meaning more than half of French births are to unmarried people. In the US, the figure is about 35 percent.

    Based on the percentage of out-of-wedlock births, it appears the debate, at least in France, is not so much about SSM, but who may parent and adopt children. Apparently the French people don’t care so much about marriage as they do about how children are raised. Since the majority of same sex couples typically would not be raising children, where is the real threat to traditional marriage?

  33. Steven B on February 23, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    Or for that matter, isn’t the larger threat to children in France the widespread trend to raise children without the stability of marriage?

  34. Wilfried on February 23, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Yes, indeed Steven B and others. It makes the conclusion of the parliamentay commission all the more valuable: they emphasize the importance of the “tripartite” in all circumstances: father-mother-child. Wonder how much of the principles of the Proclamation can be found in the parliamentary report. Definitely an important signal to the society as a whole.

  35. Matt Evans on February 23, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    I wonder what they’d think of my family’s “septpartite” circumstances!

  36. Steven B on February 23, 2006 at 8:58 pm

    Definitely an important signal to the society as a whole.

    Apparently the report does more than simply send signals to society, or recommend against adoption of SSM. The report also proposes “amendments to existing statutory or regulatory provisions.” I’d be interested if these proposals are merely aimed at further denying gay marriage possibilities, or if they are actually doing something more worthwhile, like addressing the issue of children being raised outside of stable heterosexual marriages.

  37. Jim F. on February 23, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    No, Matt, in spite of your assumption, I did not know what you were referring to by “traditional values.” I naively assumed that it meant “the values of a tradition.” We do not all speak in the political code of the right (not even all of those on the right).

    However, I doubt that the French rate of infidelity is significantly different than the American; unless by “pornography” you mean “nudity,” I don’t think that the French are any more willing to allow pornography in either their homes or in public space than Americans; and I hear a lot more vulgar language in the Provo than I heard in France. Indeed, when it comes to vulgar language, most of the vulgarities I heard in France were American ones, picked up from American movies. Chastity? Certainly the French in general don’t understand or value chastity as we do. But neither does most of the U.S. So, even using your definition of “traditional values” I don’t think you have much of a case.

    It is true that the French marry at a much lower rate than we and have children out of welock at a much greater rate. I am not saying otherwise. However, they nonetheless remain very interested in families, in doing things as families, in keeping families together (whether or not their parents are married), in family traditions, and so on. Based only on anecdotal experience I think that the French can compete with the Americans when it comes to family values.

    But all of this really amounts only to a simple claim: if we take away the stereotypes and understand a little more about France, it isn’t so surprising after all that the commission made the recommendation that it did. I applaud the commission.

  38. Matt Evans on February 24, 2006 at 10:32 am

    Jim,

    I thought that “traditional values” was generally understood as being religious morals that have been dismissed or severely discounted by secularists. Most of them have a nexus with sex or religious ideas like blasphemy.

    Infidelity may be as common here as in France; maybe their low marriage rate is caused by an unwillingness to commit to monogamy in the first place; but either way, Europe’s reaction to the revelation that Bill Clinton was having sex with college students was different from ours (here I’m using first person plural as an American, not a Mormon). And while the nudity on broadcast television in Europe isn’t always overtly sexual, the woman’s body is used for titillation just the same.

    I’m sorry learn that you hear so much profanity in Provo. I seldom hear swearing here in Maryland, and I’m sad to hear that a city where Mormons make a super majority might be worse. If you have the time, that would make an interesting post.

  39. lyle on February 24, 2006 at 11:31 am

    Maybe students just cuss around professors more often? lol…
    I hardly heard any profanity during my extended time in Utah county; and I even had a ‘diverse’ group of “crunchy” and non conservative friends.

  40. Jim F. on February 24, 2006 at 11:43 am

    “A lot more than” does not equal “a lot.” I don’t hear a lot of profanity here, and when I do hear it those using it are mostly high school age students at the mall or some place similar. But I do hear more profanity than I did in France. It could be, of course, that part of the reason is that my English is better than my French, so the profane words aren’t as recognizabale. However, though that is possible, I really don’t think I heard much. When I did, it was in pretty much the same circumstances as here. But, relatively, I hear it much more hear than I heard it there.

  41. Kristine Haglund Harris on February 24, 2006 at 11:45 am

    ” the woman’s body is used for titillation just the same.”

    Well, thank goodness that never happens here!!

  42. Matt Evans on February 24, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Kristine,

    Of course women are used to sell everything here, too, it’s just that in Europe they use women’s bare breasts to sell mayonaise. (No joke. In Spain I saw a television commercial that showed a man in the kitchen grooving his hips to match the movement of his hand spreading mayonnaise on a piece of toast. Into the kitchen walks his bare breasted girlfriend and they both groove while he holds the mayo-spread bread for her to take a sumptuous bite with a sultry eye. It made quite an impact on a young missionary used to seeing mayo marketed by moms saying “My kids like BestFoods best!”)

  43. Wilfried on February 24, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    Matt: “Europe’s reaction to the revelation that Bill Clinton was having sex with college students was different from ours (here I’m using first person plural as an American, not a Mormon).”

    I presume that you mean by this that Americans showed a greater sense of “traditional values” by being scandalized by his behavior and turning the event into a major political battle, while Europeans didn’t seem to care about infidelity. Moral Americans versus immoral Europeans. From the European perspective (as a European, not as a Mormon): “Hey, even a president is still a human being who can be tempted into plain stupid private behavior and tries to talk himself out of it – shame shame shame – and let’s now continue with our full attention to social security, health care, international relations and the needs of the Third World.”

  44. ed on February 24, 2006 at 1:42 pm

    Wilfried says: “crime rates for murder, rape, robbery, assault… In any of such categories the per ratio U.S. figures are (much) higher than in France.”

    This is a bit off topic, but aside from murder rates, I don’t think the evidence supports your statement. According to data from a 1999 international victimization survey, robbery and assault rates were higher in France than in the U.S. The difference might even be greater today, since crime rates have been trending down in the USA, and my impression is that they have been rising elsewhere. International comparisonsn are always tricky, but I haven’t seen any solid evidence that USA crime rates other than murder are much higher than other developed countries…in fact, they often appear to be lower. (Of course we also have a much more punitive justice system in the US.)

  45. Wilfried on February 24, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you for the clarification, ed. You’re right and we should not be led too quickly by stats that confirm my statement. Indeed, I discovered that “comparing crime rates from different countries is often an exercise in folly. Definitions of offenses differ, even between countries with similar legal codes, which means they are often not directly comparable.” Moreover, I also recognize that the situation has been changing over recent years. In Europe especially, the opening of communist countries and immigration seem to have a major impact on the crime rates. The problem is that it is politically incorrect to say so in some European countries.

  46. Jim F. on February 24, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I know next to nothing (or less) about the French legal systemn. However, it is relevant that the French Court of Appeals (which seems roughly comparable to our Supreme Court) has ruled that a lesbian biological mother can share her parental rights with her lesbian partner: http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3226,36-745082@51-745098,0.html

  47. FrenchExpat on February 25, 2006 at 5:58 am

    As a gay Frenchman, I have to agree with Jim F. While America is seen as conservative because America has values it holds on to, America also believe that change is good. France has little respect for values or law and order (might have to be because of the French Revolution?) and there is a lot of disrespect and so many demonstartions and strikes over there take place weekly because France most fears change.

    France has traditions, and they don’t like to see another way. There is that woman is the Socialist Party who wants to run for the Presidential Elections. This is impossible for French people to accept a woman as President. Politicians from her own party (the Left who are suposed to be open-minded) said on the news: “Who’s going to look after the kids?” My people are a sexist nation of machos stuck in their traditions and scared of change.

  48. Jim F. on February 25, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    I love having support when it comes from an unexpected quarter!

    However, if all of those gendarmes with machine guns everywhere I looked weren’t evidence of a demand for law and order, I don’t know what would be. But I agree about women in politics: I would be more surprised if a woman became president of France than if one became president of the U.S.–and I would be surprised in either case.

  49. Julie Johnson on February 28, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    I think this French political movement has much to do with Sylvia Agasinski – a feminist philosopher. She wrote a book called Parity of the Sexes and her fundamental argument rests on the concept that because humans come from a biological male and female union, children’s heritage must include the right to parents of two different sexes. Her initial work (in the late 80′s) was mostly on Soren Kierkegaard. She is actually married to Lionel Jospin, the former Prime Minister of France.

  50. Jim F. on February 28, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Julie Johnson: minor correction: her name is “Sylviane Agacinski.” She is an important thinker in contemporary France. Her latest book, The Metaphysics of the Sexes, is part of the discussion of Christianity in France today, a discussion that is central to much of what is going on. Agacinski, however, argues against Badiou’s claim that the notion of universalism comes from Paul. She has certainly read and discussed Kierkegaard, but Freud is also an important element of her backgrouin (as he is for most contemporary French thinkers) . Benjamn is also important to her.

    However, though Agacinski is an important contemporary thinker, I don’t think she has been any more influential on this commission and its thinking than anyone else. I’m fairly sure that the Dutch and Belgian thinkers who made a similar argument weren’t doing so under her influence. Perhaps the French commission was, but they could also have been influenced by any number of other thinkers who take Freud seriously.

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