French conservatives gear up against gay marriage
By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
PARIS (Reuters) - Roman Catholic bishops and conservative politicians are stepping their campaign against French President Francois Hollande's plan to legalize gay marriage days before his government presents its draft law in cabinet.
Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois is expected to call for a broad mobilization against the law when Catholic bishops meet in the southwestern pilgrimage town of Lourdes for their annual plenary on Saturday.
Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Jean-Francois Cope, who is campaigning to lead the main opposition UMP party, both backed proposals this week for a large national protest march in defense of traditional marriage.
Protesters took to the streets of 75 cities and towns across France last week and lay Catholic leaders have called for another round of demonstrations in mid-November. Sample letters against the law have been posted on websites sent to elected officials.
"In a rare turn for France, the Catholic Church finds itself setting the tone for the political opposition," wrote the Catholic newspaper La Croix. "The bishops have been raising their voices in a crescendo."
The Socialist-led government will present its draft law on same-sex marriage in cabinet next Wednesday, following up on a campaign promise by Hollande last spring. It expects to submit the reform to a vote by mid-2013.
His government originally planned to rush through the change but rising opposition from Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders slowed down the process.
MAJORITY SUPPORT BUT SLIPPING Continued...