Annual Review 2011
A group of 80 Members of Parliament and 113 Senators sent an open letter to the Minister of Education opposing the inclusion of certain material relating to sexual identity in textbooks of biology for high school students.
Equality and non-discrimination
In May, France dissolved the High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality (HALDE), the national equality body, and merged it into a new more general organisation, the Human Rights Defender (the new equality body). LGBTI human rights defenders expressed concern because HALDE had been a strong voice for human rights for LGBT people and others, and the move may significantly diminish the equality body’s impact due to a reduction in funding as well as the widening of the equality body’s remit.
- In January, the Constitutional Court found that the ban on marriage for same-sex couples does not conflict with the guarantee of fundamental rights in the French Constitution. The Court also held that allowing marriage for same-sex couples would not be unconstitutional thereby leaving the matter to lawmakers to decide. In upholding the ban, the Court ruled that a lesbian couple with four children had no right to marry. Civil partnerships, known as PACS, have existed in France since 1999 and whilst couples in civil partnerships enjoy tax and other financial benefits, they do not enjoy the same rights as married couples in relation to parental rights, inheritance, and custody of a child in the event of parental death.
- In June, the French Parliament rejected a bill introducing marriage equality for same-sex couples, proposed by the Socialist Party. The Union for a Popular Movement Party (UMP), which holds the majority in the Lower House of Parliament, succeeded in blocking the bill.
- The upholding of the marriage ban for same-sex couples once again focussed attention on the struggles of same-sex parents. In France, only one member of a couple has automatic parental rights, and human rights defenders claim that this lack of legal ties puts children at risk. Joint adoption is only allowed for married couples or single people, meaning that one parent in a same-sex partnership is not recognised by the State. This parent can then not make emergency health decisions or pass an inheritance to their children, and if the recognised parent dies, the children become legal orphans.
Freedom of assembly
Pride was celebrated in Paris shortly after the Parliament rejected the bill on marriage for same-sex couples, and months after the Constitutional Court ruled that the ban on marriage for same-sex couples did not violate the Constitution. As a result the Pride Parade motto was For equality, I march in 2011 and I vote in 2012, with many marchers wanting to make marriage rights a main issue in the 2012 Presidential Elections. Pride Parades were also celebrated in a number of other towns and cities across France using similar slogans.
Human rights defenders
In April, Rudolf Brazda, the last known gay Holocaust survivor, was awarded the Ordre Nationale de la Légion d’Honneur. Brazda spent three years at Buchenwald concentration camp, wearing the pink triangle that was used to label homosexual prisoners. He had continued to speak publicly about his trials, raising awareness about the mass deportation and persecution of gay men during the Nazi Holocaust. He died in August.
Legal gender recognition
In December, opposition Members of Parliament proposed a bill to simplify the process for gender recognition of trans people on offi cial documents, removing any connection between medical procedures and legal gender recognition.
According to a poll conducted by Dimanche Ouest-France (regional newspaper), nearly 60% of French people supported the introduction of adoption entitlements for same-sex couples.