PARIS — Six months from now, France may be glowing amid the Summer of Love, version 2013. And Gay Paris should be, well, a little gayer.
Not that there will necessarily be more homosexuals -- though more might come here. But the visible manifestations of same-sex love and commitment are sure to be more widespread across the City of Light and, indeed, around this notoriously libertine country. That is because Parliament, having just completed a marathon 96-hour debate, is preparing to greenlight "marriage for all" -- perhaps as early as Feb. 12.
Yes, the anti-gay-marriage forces -- from the arch-traditionalists that remain in France's Catholic Church to mainstream conservative politicians who use the issue to try to appeal to the wandering hard right -- are galvanized, and obstacles to gender-neutral marriage remain. Many French may not believe in the hereafter anymore, and the number of active churches may be in dramatic decline, but some who profess to speak the word of God are doing it loudly.
They've held mass protests around the country, most recently bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the streets nationwide on Jan. 27. Smaller groups, including some who prayed en masse on wintry streets to prevent same-sex weddings from ever happening, unfurled dozens of banners from 170 pedestrian, car, and metro bridges over the Seine in and near Paris. One sign that mixed metaphoric apples and oranges, read: "We want work, not gay marriage."
In a de facto filibuster effort, France's conservative opposition introduced 5,000 amendments to slow down the legislative process. In recent days, anti-gay-marriage forces even orchestrated a brief protest traffic jam to block the Champs-Élysées. Looking ahead, they plan mass protests in the spring when their allies in the French Senate may seek to create further obstacles.
But such efforts are almost certainly doomed to failure. President François Hollande, who made "marriage for all" a core issue of his candidacy, has a substantial majority in Parliament. And politically, clear action and real-world results can only help a head of state whose first eight months in office left many people here with an impression of hapless indecisiveness. His strong choice to intervene in Mali -- which has so far gone well -- has put wind in his sails, and satisfying his same-sex marriage and gay-adoption pledge would add to his newfound momentum.
While traditional-marriage advocates have been very vocal (their largest protests were bigger than any pro-gay-marriage rally), they are in the minority on this issue. Some 59 percent of French citizens are in favor of gender-neutral marriage laws, versus 36 percent against. Even French people who have mixed feelings about same-sex marriage were able to nod or even smile at some of the signs at a huge Jan. 27 rally in favor of marriage equality:
"Adam and Yves."
"Our marriage won't make you gay."
"Marianne" -- the humanized embodiment of heroic, free France -- "was a lesbian."
"The gay wedding registry is going to jump-start the economy."
And somewhat more provocative: "Jesus had two fathers and a surrogate mother."