What a French movement can teach the U.S. about marriage


he question of marriage is “not a question of religion, faith, political opinion; it’s a question of life,” said French activist Ludovine de La Rochère. La Manif Pour Tous, which means “the demonstration for all,” is a movement founded in France by de La Rochère, Frigide Barjot and Albéric Dumont to protect natural marriage.

In 2012, when then French president François Hollande announced that his government would pursue measures to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, the nonreligious, nonsectarian protest movement La Manif turned out some 200,000 demonstrators in Paris at its first rally on Nov. 17, 2012. In March 2013, more than 1 million people, according to the organization, mobilized across three different gatherings in Paris alone. They were joined by thousands of others at various locations throughout the country.

While a law legalizing same-sex marriage in France was passed in May 2013, La Manif continues to work to overturn the decision. Unlike the legal situation in America, which directly redefined marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision, French law had previously accorded some personal and civil rights to couples without regard for their sex through civil unions through the pacte civil de solidarité (civil solidarity pact).

Despite losing, for the time being, the debate about the question of marriage in French law, La Manif has made an argument that was not made well in the public square in America. “Based on the father/mother/child relationship, the family structure favors the renewal of ages and the stability of society,” states the website of La Manif Pour Tous. Clearly placing the best interests of children at the center of public debate, La Manif argues well that children are not commodities to be traded and that mothers and fathers contribute to the public good by the raising of their children.

“A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it” (CCC 2202). The family is the fundamental unit of society. Echoing the language of the Church, La Manif insists, “The family is the fundamental foundation of any society: the source of its human, cultural and economic wealth; an eminent place of solidarity, dignity, freedom and love.”

By contrast, the U.S. Senate’s Respect for Marriage Act puts the terms of debate on a contest of rights. Reacting to the Senate’s Nov. 16 decision to advance the bill, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York pointed out the deficiencies of the bill concerning its protections for religious liberty. The cardinal said, “In any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages.”

In the United States, efforts to defend the sanctity of marriage as a privileged union which exists between one man and one woman seemed to rely mostly on traditional religious beliefs. What La Manif has successfully done is introduce into the larger political conversation considerations about why the sacred union of one man and one woman is so unique: because this union can create children.

Children are the future of a society. They are also society’s most vulnerable members. In service to the common good, they must be protected and their care privileged. La Manif argues, “Because it requires parents to provide for the moral and material direction of the family as well as the education of the children and the preparation of their future, marriage also protects the fruit of their love.” On this account, civil marriage is not about the freedom to love another person; rather civil marriage is about protecting the defenseless, whether spouse or child.

In his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, Pope Francis warned against the effects that technology will have on our social institutions. “The social dimensions of global change include the effects of technological innovations on employment, social exclusion, an inequitable distribution and consumption of energy and other services, social breakdown, increased violence and a rise in new forms of social aggression, drug trafficking, growing drug use by young people, and the loss of identity.” Redefining marriage is the first step to divorcing the parent-child relationship altogether.

This article comes to you from Our Sunday Visitor courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Science, faith, and answering life’s biggest questions

Wednesday, January 25, 2023
By:  David Mills “The first thing to realize, if you wish to become a philosopher,” wrote one of the 20th century’s major... Read More

The Church’s long history of supporting immigrants

Monday, January 23, 2023
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion When President Joe Biden recently visited El Paso, Texas, a city that borders Mexico and is the destination of... Read More

Opening the Word: The light of Christ dispels the darkness

Friday, January 20, 2023
By: Catherine Cavadini Our first reading from Isaiah this Sunday stops short of its most famous lines: “For a child has been born... Read More

A convert learning to love Mary

Wednesday, January 18, 2023
By: Samantha Stephenson My relationship with Mary had something of a rocky start when a Catholic neighbor girl tried to teach me the Hail Mary. At... Read More

‘Dialogues of the Carmelites’ and the power of theater

Monday, January 16, 2023
By: Russell Shaw If you have access to a radio station that carries the Saturday matinee broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, you have a... Read More

Opening the Word: Will you follow Jesus?

Friday, January 13, 2023
By: Father Joshua J. Whitfield After our Advent watching, our adoring Christ at Christmas, when God’s come close; in contemplating this... Read More

March for Life president: Overturning of Roe v. Wade ‘is not the end of our fight’

Wednesday, January 11, 2023
By: Jeanne F. Mancini In the months since the Supreme Court’s monumental overturning of Roe v. Wade, many people have asked me... Read More

Catholic priests and the vow of obedience

Monday, January 9, 2023
By: Father Patrick Briscoe In the Dominican Order, although we friars live celibacy and poverty, we only make one vow: obedience. We profess this... Read More

Opening the Word: The splendor of Christ’s light

Friday, January 6, 2023
By: Catherine Cavadini “Charm with your stainlessness these winter nights, / Skies, and be perfect! Fly, vivider in the fiery dark, you quiet... Read More

Papal calendar: 2023 holds important events for Pope Francis

Wednesday, January 4, 2023
By: Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis will soon pack his bags for his first foreign trip of 2023, a year that promises to be as... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!