The New French Revolution – Equality In France

Pete Simpson

Voulez vous coucher avec moi, ce soir? It’s been sang many times by men and woman alike, usually to the opposite sex and occasionally followed with a ‘au e au au au’ stereotypical impression of a French person by Missy Elliot. That’s right they are asking that well known French phrase, will you sleep with me tonight’? Well Missy Elliot, Christina, Pink and Lil Kim, not if you make those noises in the bedroom I won’t.

Let’s bring that familiar phrase into the twenty first century a little, let’s have gays singing it to each other, no, actually let’s have gays singing this: ‘veux-tu m’épouser ce soir’ – will you marry me tonight? Romantic right? Well my partner of seven years has already said these similar words and I’ve said yes, but unfortunately we are not French and this will not be a ‘marriage’. Perhaps if he had performed the words in song while pretending to be working at the Moulin Rouge, it may have been different, or perhaps not.

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Back to France, and over recent years we’ve seen some strange movements around equality there. We probably all remember the ban the burka law former President Sarkozy pushed forward. The law was a blatant attempt to alienate the rights of Muslims and take away aspects of their culture. Since then the spot light has been on France, waiting for those next ‘ban on…’ law, reducing a nation’s rights. What we have seen in the country in the last month is quite the opposite though.

The passing of the ‘marriage for all’ bill has given the right for gay couples to marry, you know the type of bill that brings out the homophobic and anti-gay campaigners and is hugely fought at every stage through parliament. In France the bill was so opposed that a campaigner against the bill jumped from Notre Dame cathedral in protest of the notion. Politicians, Catholics and the far right, to name a few, took to the streets of Paris in protest, yet the bill still got passed and had been introduced.

Although for gay activists the law is an important step forward for LGBT rights, the passing comes at a price. Since being introduced, France has seen an increase in homophobic crimes. Last Wednesday in Paris student Clément Méric a left wing activist was fatally attacked by members of a far right group. He was hit over the head by a member of the group opposing his opinion, striking him with a knuckle duster and leaving him brain dead. A brutal act by extremists, but tensions in France have always been fraught to say the least. The government has stated that the debate surrounding gay marriage has exacerbated tensions further. For those of us delving into this, we can only hope it will die down as the perpetrators of such hate move on to their next battle, and in France that is always a moving image.

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Despite all the opposition, two weeks ago, the world’s media homed in on Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, as they had the first official gay marriage ceremony in the country. Protesters took to the streets outside the venue of the wedding, which had coverage from over 140 news networks, as the couple made French history. So opposed and protested, the couple are wed, and set a precedent by which it will happen again and again for many gay and lesbian couples, of course with a little help from President François Hollande pushing it as part of his equality in France agenda.

So 2014 will see my wedding, sorry civil partnership. I want it to be a celebration of a happy seven year long relationship, I don’t want it to be a reason for death, for arguments, for hatred, nor a spectacle for the world to watch. I want to enjoy the cake cutting, the ceremony, the party and saying Voulez vous coucher avec moi at the end of the night to my husband.

I want it to be a marriage, but alas I shall have to wait before I upgrade, until equal marriage is legal in the UK. I think there is one thing the recent equality revolution in France has taught us in the western world, resistance to the homo is futile, you can keep knocking us back, but we will always keep fighting for equality.

About Pete Simpson

Pete is a 20 year old (and some) guy who describes himself as a social entrepreneur. He is an LGBT charity trustee and was voted best dressed male 2004 at sixth form college. Often found with a beer, in Birmingham, London or Milton Keynes. Twitter @cardboardcakes