Several hundred thousand due in Paris to protest gay marriage

Sat Jan 12, 2013 6:14pm EST
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS (Reuters) - Several hundred thousand people are expected to march through Paris on Sunday against the planned legalization of same-sex marriage in the first mass protest against the unpopular President Francois Hollande.

Strongly backed by the Catholic hierarchy, lay activists have mobilized a hybrid coalition of church-going families, political conservatives, Muslims, evangelicals and even homosexuals opposed to gay marriage for the show of force.

So many are expected to converge on Paris from around France that police had organizers split it into three separate columns starting from different points around the city and meeting in the Champ de Mars park at the Eiffel Tower.

Frigide Barjot, an eccentric comedian leading the so-called "Demo for All," insists the protest is pro-marriage rather than anti-gay and has banned all but its approved banners saying a child needs a father and a mother to develop properly.

"We're all born of a man and a woman, but the law will say the opposite tomorrow," she said last week. "It will say a child is born of a man and a man."

Hollande, who promised to legalize gay marriage and adoption during his election campaign last spring, has a comfortable parliamentary majority to pass the law by June as planned.

But his clumsy handling of other promises, such as a 75 percent tax on the rich that was ruled unconstitutional or his faltering struggle against rising unemployment, has soured the public mood. A mass street protest can hardly help his image.


French humorist and TV host Virginie Merle, also known as "Frigide Barjot" attends a news conference in Paris, January 10, 2013. Merle will be one of the leaders in Sunday's march through Paris of opponents to gay marriage, adoption and procreation assistance. The message on her T-shirt reads "everybody is born to a man and a woman". REUTERS/Charles Platiau