While supporters of traditional marriage gather peacefully in front of the U.S. Supreme Court today awaiting a decision on two key cases, halfway around the world a similar rally in Paris this past weekend ended in violence.
Organizers of “Manif pour tous (March for all)” said 1.4 million protesters thronged the streets of Paris to oppose a draft bill legalizing same-sex marriage and gay adoption. As the crowd headed toward the landmark Champs-Elysees avenue and toward the presidential palace, French police tear gassed and beat the protesters with batons to keep them off the famed street. The crowd included children, elderly people, and priests, many bused in from French provinces that continue to hold onto their Christian roots.
One LifeSiteNews correspondent, Jeanne Smits, who witnessed the protest said a 14-year-old boy needed respiratory assistance after the tear gas attack. The leader of the mainstream Christian Democratic Party also fell victim to the choking gas. Police allegedly threw a 17-year-old protestor down the stairs at the entrance of a subway station after gassing him. Photos show both school children and retirees wiping their eyes and covering their mouths with cloth.
But French officials tell a different story, capping the number of protesters at 300,000 and blaming them for the violence. Interior Minister Manuel Valls said law enforcement officials acted with “professionalism and cool-headedness.”
The lower house of France’s parliament approved the same-sex marriage bill last month, and it now faces a vote in the Senate next month. This is the third demonstration against the bill in five months, with the January march also topping 1 million people.
While polls last August showed that same-sex marriage had two-thirds support among the French, the number is now down to a narrow majority. The opposition comes from the Catholic church in France, other religious leaders, including Jews and Muslims, and people in traditional small towns. Polls show that even fewer French voters approve of allowing same-sex couples to adopt.
President Francois Holland, who ran on a platform pledging to legalize gay marriage, is now experiencing his country’s change of heart. His approval rating recently dropped to 36 percent because of the marriage law and his handling of the economic crisis.
Frigide Barjot, the leader of the protests, insisted the traditional marriage movement wasn’t a lost cause: “It’s the second round, sir. It’s not the last battle.”