Despite France legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, more than 20,000 people have protested against the law in Paris. The demo comes just weeks before the conservative primary ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
After two years out of the spotlight, anti-gay marriage movement "Manif Pour Tous" (Protest for Everyone) was reactivated on Sunday. According to police figures, between 23,000 and 24,000 people gathered at the Trocadero Plaza in western Paris to protest against France's same-sex marriage laws. Organizers, however, put the turnout at approximately 200,000.
Protesters marched through the streets waving French flags and the movement's blue and pink colors. Some held signs declaring "All together for the family" and "In 2017, I'll vote for the family."
"Even if the gay marriage law has been adopted, we will continue the protest to show that it is not good and we want it to be repealed. We want to influence the political debate that will take place in the coming months," said one protester.
A 29-year-old man told news agency AFP that he was protesting because he wanted a "return to the principles of Christian civilization in terms of family, institutions and work."
'Marriage for all'
France's Socialist government legalized same-sex marriage, which it called "Marriage for All," in 2013. Now, with the conservative primary less than a month away, protesters hope to pressure politicians into agreeing to repeal the law if they are elected president.
Despite high security patrolling proceedings, the protests were briefly interrupted when six topless women from the women's movement Femen were arrested by police. Some of them had the words "Hate is not a family value" written on their chests to protest against what they called "homophobia."
Approximately 100 gay rights activists also staged a counter-protest in the city center, with same-sex couples kissing defiantly near the Place de la Republique. Opinion polls show that a majority in France do not want the gay marriage law to be repealed.
Not on the cards for Sarkozy
Conservative nominee and former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is currently trailing rival Alain Juppe in polls, said Sunday that a repeal of same-sex marriage laws was not on his agenda should he return to power in 2017.
"I believe France has many other important issues to deal with such as security, terrorism and unemployment, rather than recreate conditions for another hysterical debate," he said.
"Manif Pour Tous" mobilized in 2012 and 2013 in an unexpectedly strong show of opposition from conservatives, especially Roman Catholics. At their height, the group attracted some 1.4 million protesters. Alongside same-sex marriage, the group is also against surrogate pregnancies, assisted reproduction technology and adoption by same-sex couples.
ksb/cmk (AFP, Reuters, dpa)