A piece by Charles Bremner in yesterday’s Times:
The French parliament has voted to banish the words “mother” and “father” from official paperwork in the education system to tackle discrimination against gay parents.
Children’s documents will instead refer to Parent 1 and Parent 2. The move has angered conservatives and Christians who argue that it signals the country’s moral decline.
Groups fiercely opposed to gay marriage have called for civil disobedience if, as is widely expected, the move is approved by the Senate. Traditionalists claim that the next move will be to delete the words mother and father from the French language.
MPs from President Macron’s République en Marche party passed the legal amendment in the interests of “anchoring in the diversity of families of children in the law”. Gay marriage became legal in France six years ago.
The amendment says: “To prevent discrimination, school enrolment, class registers, parental authorisations and all other official forms involving children must mention only Parent 1 and Parent 2.”
The measure was welcomed by the parties of the centre and left. The Federation for the Council of Secondary School Parents said: “This is a very good thing. It takes into account the changing situation of families. This is in tune with the new law against bullying because children who do not fit into the usual boxes are targets of bullying.”
The removal of les pères and les mères was not backed by the education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer.
The Association of Homoparental Families gave it a mixed welcome because it forced all couples to choose a hierarchy. Alexandre Urwicz, its president, asked: “Who is Parent No 1, who is Parent No 2?” However, he said that it was a good step towards the eventual elimination of parental gender throughout official paperwork.
Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, has already imposed gender-neutral language in all the city’s administrative affairs, using the terms Parent 1 and Parent 2 as well as other inclusive language. The move is strongly opposed by traditionalists because it distorts French grammar to combine masculine and feminine endings when referring to people.
Opponents claim that the gender-free rule is proof that France will be forced to abandon the natural structures of human society.
Laurent Wauquiez, leader of the conservative Republicans party, the main opposition, promised to reverse the move if elected. It would feed the gilets jaunes anti-system revolt because “our citizens do not share anything with the political class nor the policies they are imposing”, he said.
Ludovine de la Rochère, leader of the Catholic Demonstration for All, condemned the neutral parent idea as “absolutely dehumanising”. Her organisation mounted mass protests against the gay marriage law. “Children need guidance,” she said.“This amendment goes towards the disappearance of fundamental references.”
Alliance Vita, a militant anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage association, called for civil disobedience. Tugdual Derville, its director, said: “We invite parents to refuse to fill out the boxes, which attempt to erase their identity through gender neutrality.”
Jean-Pierre Winter, a psychoanalyst, told Le Figaro: “We are only at the beginning of a process that will neutralise the difference between the sexes up to the elimination of mentions of man and woman on identity papers”.
Mr Macron is under fire over his promise to introduce taxpayer-funded IVF for lesbians this year. He is, however, refusing to approve surrogacy, which remains illegal in France. Couples are increasingly going abroad to have surrogate babies.
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