By Yanan Wang:
In my French language class, we watched a film called Comme les autres (titled “Baby Love” in the English version but literally translated as “Like the Others”). The directorial debut of Vincent Garenq, the movie follows one Parisian gay man’s pursuit of fatherhood. In his depiction of the often comedic avenues taken by homosexuals seeking to have children, Garenq points out many of the ironies underlying the French policies on same sex marriage and adoption.
In November of 1999, the French Parliament passed a law allowing for civil solidarity pacts (commonly referred to as the PACS) between both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The pact is a form of civil union that gives joint signees many of the same rights as married spouses, such as joint income tax filing. While this law has been a boon for homosexual couples who wish to live together and share joint finances, many LGBT groups have accused the PACS of being a red herring to the real issue at hand—that of same-sex marriage. When the French Government proposed expanding the rights granted by the PACS in both 2004 and 2006, they were criticized for steering the debate away from the more pressing questions of marriage and adoption laws.
For the five weeks that I was in France, I stayed with a Christian Parisian family. As per my homework assignments, we often discussed French politics and culture at dinner, and they were often as interested in American and Canadian society, not to mention “Yale culture”, as I was in French ideals. When the subject of same-sex marriage came up during a conversation about newly-elected President Hollande’s proposed changes to laws surrounding marriage, abortion, and euthanasia, I asked my host parents what they thought about same-sex marriage.
Geneviève was reluctant to reply, but her husband, Patrick, spoke about the “rights of the child.” “Homosexuality is against my morals,” he told me, “but that doesn’t mean that I am against same-sex couples. What I have a problem with is when homosexuality infringes on the rights of children—the right of children to have both a mother and a father.”
While this is a common argument against same-sex adoption, it is not valid where French adoption laws are concerned. Under current regulations, single, heterosexual individuals are able to adopt, whereas same-sex couples and even unmarried, heterosexual couples joined by the PACS are not. The existing policy renders Patrick’s argument a moot point. Moreover, it calls into question the true legitimacy of the PACS. Even as this form of civil union becomes more popular among those who view marriage as an institution of the past, it is dangerous to consider it a worthy substitute of the rights given to married couples.
As we were clearing the table, Geneviève asked me, “Do you have homosexual friends?” The question held such a self-evident response that it took me a moment to react. “Yes, of course,” I said. As a citizen of Canada, the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, I was taken aback by the notion that a homosexual friend might be different from any other kind of friend.
In Comme les autres, the lead character ultimately uses a surrogate mother (also prohibited in France) to have a child. But with the new government, there is hope that such measures will no longer be necessary. During his campaign, Hollande promised to pass same-sex marriage legislation before the spring of 2013. After the Socialist Party’s majority win in the French Assembly on June 17, this seems an even likelier possibility. Just three days ago, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault reiterated their 2013 goal in a speech that advocated “the right to marriage and adoption open to all couples, without discrimination.”
Yanan Wang ’15 is in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.