FRANCE: The Family Law Bill that never was

Recently, French people once again took the the streets for a “manifestation.” This is their word for “protest.” They were up in arms about a proposed legislation to “modernize” the French family as they know it. The Secretary of the State of the Family, Laurence Rossignol and the other MPs were all set to debate the merits of the proposed changes at the National Assembly, until French people descended in droves on the avenues and boulevards to put a stop to the whole thing. According to Newsweek:

First, there was the legalization of gay marriage and adoption in May last year. Next a “modernization” of family law to “reflect the new ‘diversity’ of families.’ ” On the face of it, a draft bill would move toward recognizing the rights of stepparents. But conservatives suspected a smokescreen to smuggle into law surrogacy and in vitro fertilization–assisted reproduction for gay and lesbian couples. “They want to replace mother and father with parent one and parent two,” the president of Civitas, Alain Escada, told Newsweek.

Then along came the ABCD of Equality, an experiment sponsored by the Ministries of Education and Women’s Rights with the stated intention of deconstructing gender stereotypes among elementary school children and promoting equality and respect between the sexes. More.

There are tons of issues on the “family” table in France. One is that some folks want a law banning the smacking of children by parents. Yes, parents can hit their children in France and many people do not like this. Brussels, indeed, has been putting pressure on France to come into compliance with about 18 other European countries which ban the hitting/smacking of children. But under French law, it is okay to correct your children with a little smack here or there. Under British law, too, you can hit so long as the child does not remain red too long. But most of the EU want this to stop as they see it as a form of child abuse.

Another thing is this proposed bill was going to equalize the rights of parents post-divorce with regard to physical custody of the child by requiring that the child be given two official addresses post divorce. That is, legally, the child resides equally with both parents albeit in two homes. And it would have “recognized the rights of stepparents.” And facilitated adoptions by same sex couples and ostensibly by single women as well.

But for the moment, the French Family Bill is on hold. The pressure is on for Madame Laurence Rossignol, whose job it is to protect the family and promote the values of the French people with regard to family matters, to find a way to balance the competing interests of traditional french values and the need for France to modernize at least some of its law regarding family, marriage and children.