Tens of thousands protest against French gay marriage law | News | DW | 26.05.2013
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Tens of thousands protest against French gay marriage law

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Paris to protest against the new law signed by President Francois Hollande that allows same-sex couples to marry. France's first gay wedding is due to take place on Wednesday.

Organizers of Sunday's demonstration decided that the rally should go ahead despite the fact that President Francois Hollande had signed the bill into law on May 18, making good on one of the pledges he made during the campaign for the election that brought him to power last year.

Opponents of the law had taken part in a number of demonstrations in the months leading up to the passage of the legislation and if Sunday's turnout was any indication, it appears many of them are still not prepared to give up.

Police estimated that crowd at around 150,000 people, but organizers claimed more than a million people had taken to the streets of the French capital.

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Paris protests gay marriage law

Many of the participants in the protest, which was organized by a Catholic group and a "traditionalist" group, waved flags or held up banners denouncing the law.

Security was stepped up in the city, with almost 5,000 police officers deployed in a move designed to prevent any outbreaks of violence.

The demonstration remained peaceful until late on Sunday when hundreds of protesters began attacking police with bottles and smoke flares, prompting the arrest of at least 29 individuals.

Ahead of the rally, the interior minister, Manuel Vallis had warned parents not to bring their children, due to what he said was the danger of far-right nationalists using the demonstration to provoke clashes with police.

Late on Saturday, police had detained around 50 anti-gay marriage protesters for blocking the Champs-Elysees street, however, there were no reports of major disruptions during Sunday's event.

Leaders of Hollande's Socialist Party denounced the protest against the law already passed in parliament and validated France's Constitutional Council. Jean-Francois Cope, leader of the opposition UMP party, took part in Sunday's Paris march, but his conservative UMP seemed split on whether to continue rallies.

Several other UMP leaders, including former conservative prime ministers Francois Fillon and Alain Juppe, did not join the march, saying lawmakers should exercise their influence in parliament rather than in street protests.

Survey - opposition dwindles

A survey published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche showed that 72 percent thought the protests should now stop. The survey found that 53 percent of those polled support gay marriage and adoption, indicating a slide of about 10 points since the protests began last November.

Two men plan to become the first same-sex couple to marry in France at a ceremony in the southern city of Montpelier next Wednesday.

France, a traditionally Catholic country, followed 13 others including Canada, Denmark, Sweden and most recently Uruguay and New Zealand in allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed. In the United States, Washington D.C. and 12 states have legalised same-sex marriage.

pfd/ipj (AFP, dpa)

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