The President of France, Francois Hollande has recently gained quite a bit of criticism regarding his decision to make some amendments to the currently up-in-the-air gay marriage law. The sources of this criticism are gay rights movements who say that he is going against his initial promises to support gay marriage within the country. The provision he wishes to add to the law is one that will allow mayors to refuse to do gay marriages if it goes against what they believe. They can’t just deny the marriage, of course, but are allowed to delegate the responsibility to one of their subordinates.
But how much of this criticism is truly justified and how much of it just reactionary? Hollande has undergone a fair amount of criticism from those who oppose gay marriage laws altogether, including more than 100 mayors who say they will refuse to perform the marriages whether or not the law passes. Perhaps Hollande sees this as the best compromise and thus the best way to ensure that the marriage laws pass?
This also brings to light the question of whether mayors should indeed have the ability to say no if they wish, on religious grounds. Laws in France dictate that those getting married must have a civil ceremony in addition to whatever church one they wish to have, so the mayors play an important part in the process. Should they be completely beholden to their position within government, or is assigning someone else to do the marriages good enough?
I can understand the feelings of betrayal on a personal level, but practically it may be better for gay rights activists to not overreact to this one. The more provisions are allowed, the greater chances there are that the laws are passed in January. And would a couple really wish to get married by someone who is reciting the ceremony disingenuously?
It seems to me that this call of foul play is really a case of hurt pride among gay communities who feel that Hollande is not living up to his promises. If ceremonies are held by someone other than a mayor, that does not make the marriage any less official. The best thing to do in this case is support whatever is needed to get the laws passed and deal with tweaking them later. Once gay marriage is accepted, it will be easier to convince people and there’s no need to jeopardize the whole affair over such a small detail.