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June 11th 2013 print

Andrew McIntyre

‘Oui’ to gay marriage, but a big ‘non’ for restraint

After turning a colder shoulder to Brussels' plea for austerity, France's Francois Hollande marked his return to statesmanship with a lusty cheer as Vincent took Bruno up the aisle


The list of things the European Commission requires of France to improve its budgetary position reads like a recipe on how to run a country properly. Like the Ten Commandments, Paris daily Le Figaro lists ten basic reforms  the EU reckons the French need to undertake.


The first is to keep the budget within 3% of GDP by 2015. This, if I remember, was one of the primary conditions demanded decades ago of the very first member countries of the Union. France, of course, has run deficits for over 30 years in a row and never attained that 3% target. Wayne Swann should eat his heart out.

The list from Brussels goes on. Essentially, the Commission wants French President Francois Hollande to reform the administration, cut back on all spending, simplify and reduce taxes, reduce the cost of jobs and health expenditure, open the professional class to competition, create flexibility in the workplace, reform the unemployment system, and deregulate the gas and electricity tariffs. Sound familiar?

Now, with all due respect for French sovereignty — after all it is the EU commission — what did President Hollande say in response?

“The Commission has no right to dictate to us what we have to do.” 

A good plan for economic reform, n’est ce pas?

That “historic” marriage in Montpellier.

WELL, the first “same sex marriage did take place as planned in Montpellier last week after the new same-sex laws were introduced. There was, curiously, enormous media attention. The guests at Vincent and Bruno’s wedding numbered 140. The media, no less than 115 teams from around the world, numbered around 500. One wonders what it is that so fascinates everyone about gay marriage, given that all political parties seem to be ignoring the really pressing bread and butter issues of the economy and employment.

I noticed an obfuscatory piece in The Financial Times by Mark Mazower, who claims that the protests over same-sex union are really reflect the deep anxiety over the country’s future, suggesting that the huge demonstrations over the last six months are just a reaction to the stresses of globalization, the economic situation and a “turning inwards” — a symptom of some sort of nebulous French ontological insecurity. This is to diminish and traduce exactly what the protests were about.

In France, no surrender this time

The apparent urgency for this reform in France and the way government caved into a militant minority — barely 0.3% French of couples are gay — who seems to have been paralyzed by the dreaded accusation of homophobia, is objectively quite bizarre. What is certain is that these massive demonstrations and their force were completely unexpected by the government and the media.

This revolution is being led by people who are sick of the indifference shown by their leaders and “progressives”, and the movement is at last is forcing them to come down from their towers and open their eyes. Even though the law was passed, it has clearly taken the shine off the President’s “success”. This is in spite of insults from the media and the outrageous intimidation through arbitrary arrests and even the language the President thinks protesters are supposed to be allowed to use; “no one has the right to use these words [like resistance] to defend ideas, if you can call them ideas today”. The protesters make up a potent political force against a blind and deaf Establishment, which refuses to see what is under its nose.

What really is under its nose has been unwittingly revealed by the master pastry-chef responsible for the soaring, one-and-a-half meter piece montée for the wedding, with its top crowned with the gay community’s rainbow and two male figurines. He commented, “Aujourd’hui, le marriage n’a plus de sexe” ["These days, marriage is about more than sex"]. The ambiguity in French of the word sexe, which also functions like the English word “gender”, is perhaps sadly true.

The major message of the anti same-sex protest explicitly acknowledges that gays can make love, but that they can never have sex, if understood in the broader, biological meaning of the word.

Andrew McIntyre blogs at andrewmcintyre.org