France’s governing Socialist Party hit back hard at the Roman Catholic Church on Sunday for campaigning against its plan to legalize same-sex marriage, heralding a bruising debate over the issue.
Paris Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois spoke against the proposed law on Saturday and encouraged Catholics to write to their elected officials and take to the streets in protest against the reform due to be voted on by mid-2013.
Opinion polls show that backing for the plan, a campaign promise by President Francois Hollande, has slipped several points since leaders of France’s main religions began speaking out against it and now stands at just under 60 percent.
The government is due to present the draft text of the law to the cabinet on Wednesday.
“I’m shocked by this attitude which I think is a kind of return to a fundamentalism that I find problematic,” Jean-Marie Le Guen, Socialist senator from Paris, said of Vingt-Trois’s speech to bishops in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes.
Party spokesman David Assouline said it was not the Church’s role “to oppose the will of the legislature, especially concerning civil marriage in a secular republic.”
In his Lourdes speech, Vingt-Trois, who is head of the bishops’ conference, said legalizing same-sex marriage would profoundly affect the equilibrium of French society and harm children who would grow up without a father and a mother.
“It will not be ‘marriage for all’,” he said, citing the slogan of campaign for gay matrimony, “it will be the marriage of a few imposed on all”.