Saturday, 24 November 2012

Malta Star: French, Irish march on gay marriage, abortion
Monday, 19 Nov 2012, 04:56

Tens of thousands of people have protested in France against plans to legalise same-sex marriage and allow gay couples to adopt.

Police said at least 70,000 took to the streets in Paris; there were other demonstrations in the cities of Lyon, Toulouse and Marseille.

They included Catholic groups and other backers of traditional family rights.

President Francois Hollande has promised to change French law so that gay and lesbian couples can marry.

Despite opposition from more than 1,000 mayors and the Catholic Church, his socialist government approved a bill on the issue earlier this month which will be debated by parliament in January.

France already allows civil unions between same-sex couples, but extending their rights was a campaign pledge of Mr Hollande before he was elected in May.

Protesters in Paris wore pink T-shirts and scarves and carried pink balloons emblazoned with images of a man and woman holding two children's hands.

"A child needs a father and a mother, he needs the paternal and the maternal side and with this bill that might not be possible any more," said one protestor, Marthe Vignault.

"That's the way it is and we can't go against nature."

Saturday also saw counter-rallies in support of same-sex marriage.

The issue is one of the most divisive Mr Hollande has faced, correspondents say. The head of the French Council of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, recently described gay marriage as "the ultimate deceit".

At present only married couples - not civil union partners - can adopt in France.

A number of European nations, including Sweden and the UK, already allow gay adoption.

Meanwhile several thousand people have attended rallies in the Republic of Ireland in memory of Savita Halappanavar, calling for changes to Irish abortion law.

The 31-year-old died at a Galway hospital last month. Her family claimed she was repeatedly refused a termination during a miscarriage.

The largest demonstrations took place in Dublin and Galway on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Irish police have confirmed they are assisting the coroner in relation to Mrs Halappanavar's death.

Her widower, Praveen Halappanavar, said his wife had accepted she was losing her baby and made several requests for a medical termination.

However, he claimed that doctors refused her plea because there was a foetal heartbeat.

Mr Halappanavar said hospital staff told them Ireland was "a Catholic country".

The hospital authorities have said the facts of the case have yet to be established.

They are co-operating with two investigations into her death - an internal investigation and an inquiry carried out by the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE).

The terms of reference of the HSE inquiry are expected to be made public in the coming days.

In recent days, demonstrations over the case been held in Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Londonderry and the Irish embassies in Delhi and London.

Source: BBC News

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