As part of its effort to extend marriage equality to gay and lesbian couples, the government of France is proposing changing all of its legal language to say “parents” instead of “mother and father.” But this slight change of language has fueled conservative religious panic, with Catholic bishops and news outlets alike calling it a “ban” on the words “mother” and “father.”
The Catholic church, a strong institution in France, has used the proposed change in language as an opportunity to espouse its opposition to France’s marriage equality efforts, with even the Pope deeming it a threat on straight couples and two-parent families:
The head of the French Catholic Church Cardinal Philippe Barbarin warned followers last week that gay marriage could lead to legalised incest and polygamy in society. He told the Christian’s RFC radio station: “Gay marriage would herald a complete breakdown in society. This could have innumerable consequences. Afterward they will want to create couples with three or four members. And after that, perhaps one day the taboo of incest will fall.” [...]
And Pope Benedict XVI invited 30 French bishops to Italy to urge them to fight against the new law. He told them: “We have there a true challenge to take on. The family that is the foundation of social life is threatened in many places, following a concept of human nature that has proven defective.”
The move by the French government is not a ban, but a simple effort to promote inclusiveness. It signifies a step toward greater legal protection for gay and lesbian couples — part of French President François Hollande’s broader effort to fight for LGBT equality in his country. The blanket language change is meant to prevent confusion at lower levels of government, so that all government documents are consistent should the marriage equality law take effect, and so that all gay and lesbian couples can expect equal protection throughout the French legal system.