Yesterday afternoon, the French parliament voted to send the law known as « Le Mariage pour Tous » to the President of the Republic for his signature. The vote wasn't close: 331 députés voted for the law, and 225 voted against it. Le Mariage pour Tous — "marriage for all," or marriage equality — is a reform that Socialist François Hollande campaigned on in 2012, when he won the presidency.
The new marriage-equality proposal faces one more hurdle before it can be signed into law ("promulgated") by the French president. Opponents have filed a challenge with the Consitutional Council, a body that can overturn proposed laws on constitutional grounds. Most people think the marriage-equality law will pass muster, because the chairman of the council has already said that it is the French parliament's role to define the country's marriage laws.
Opponents of the new law have turned the months-long debate over same-sex marriage into a real circus. The "establishment" right wing has been put in the uncomfortable position of appearing arm in arm with members of the extreme Front National party in recent demonstrations. Coverage on French television has shown demonstrators who look a lot like thugs and vandals throwing rocks and bottles at police, and chanting slogans saying police should be out patrolling immigrant neighborhoods in the Paris suburbs rather than deployed to put down legitimate demonstrations.
The leader of the anti-Mariage-pour-Tous movement is a woman whose pseudonym, Frigide Barjot, couldn't have been better chosen by a political satirist. The meaning of Frigide is pretty clear, and Barjot is a slang word meaning "reckless to the point of nuttiness." The term « barjot » [bar-ZHO] is an example of "syllable-inversion" (verlan) slang and is based on the older term « jobard » [zho-BAR], meaning "gullible, easily duped, a sucker." The whole name is a kind of pun on the name of another famous and possibly nutty Frenchwoman, Brigitte Bardot.
Personally, I've been really surprised (not to say disappointed) at how polarized France has turned out to be on the question of same-sex marriage. Belgium adopted its marriage-equality law about 15 years ago, without much controversy. Reputedly conservative countries like Spain and Portugal have also instituted marriage equality — not to mention the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Or New York, Maryland, Maine, Washington, and other U.S. states. Despite its reputation as a secular and enlightened champion of human-rights, France has not led the way on marriage equality, that's for sure. (Nor has my native North Carolina, by the way, but no one would have expected it to.)