In French stating "La République" is much more than saying that France has a republican form of government It means also that we are proud of it being so and that we are willing to give up some of our personal interests for the sake of La République. Mind you, not for the majority or for the collective, for "La République". Today the French National Assembly approved by 329 against 229 a new definition of marriage which now includes any two adults that express their desire to get married. As such, all marriages will soon be treated equally in front of the law, from health care to inheritance, including adoption. Same criteria for all.
Of course, it is not quite over yet, the Senate, much less powerful in France than in the US, needs to express its opinions. And then there will be the usual constitutional challenges. But for all practical purposes, the climax was a few minutes ago at the French Assembly where we saw la République at work.
We could start by the full house that greets such historical moments when momentous laws are passed. If along the two weeks of heated debate the seats were often rather empty as the Socialists only cared to have more presence than the UMP right just in case this one would sneak in an unwanted amendment, today all were there, and almost all voted or at least publicly proclaimed their abstention. We could also insist on the fact that at least 30 representatives from the left did not follow the majority decision while on the right almost 10 did not follow the orders from the UMP which was, let's say it, rather hysterical on many a point during the debate, something that they will pay dearly at the ballot box I can assure you as even inside right wing voters poll reflect a very significant support for the law.
We could also include the opening remarks by the Prime Minister not one of my favorites whatsoever but who behaved very "Républicain" today thanking both left and right for heated debate with more dignity than one would have expected at times considering that, well, this is cantankerous France. In case you understand French, I embedded the video at the end of this entry.
Which brings me to an inevitable comparison with Venezuela where the supposedly human rights revolution has failed on all accounts. Earlier I was telling you about how once again Indigenous people were trampled over. But today's vote in France reminds us how far we are in Venezuela of any feeling like a "République" that we can all be proud of even if we do not agree with (trust me, after a few years France will have absorbed marriage for all as it absorbed major laws in its time, from women's right to vote to abortion and the end of death penalty, all debates having been as bitter or more than the one we discuss today).
For example, can anyone conceive that today a minister of Chavez or a member of chavismo would thank the opposition as the French Prime Minister did today? Can you conceive a chair of the National Assembly of Venezuela go out of his way to make sure the opposition had plenty if not more time than the government to criticize a proposed law? That is what makes a République: the chair may cut off quite often the opposition but when real matters come on the floor, then the chair usually finds the spirit of République.
But there is also a more grievous fault of chavismo. This blog as often pointed out the latent homophobia of chavismo, starting with the infamous "patiquines maricones de Primero Justicia" proffered in 2003 for which there has never been an apology and whose innuendos still pursued Capriles in last year campaign. The chavista government, which some whisper is full of closeted ministers, is perhaps the one that has been more macho vocally and more homophobic of our recent history (save perhaps the one of Herrera Campins who raided gay bars regularly, but he was a Christian Democrat, you know). In the neo-totalitarian logic of such a regime as the one that Chavez presides (presided?) no minority can be actually protected and even those who supposedly are officially protected must be reminded that they are so at the will of the Supreme Leader, as the Native American are reminded over and over. You may thus forget of course serious legal recognition to gay rights.
Tragically, in a way it does not affect me. The paradox that I need to explain over and over to my US friends when I visit is that gay rights in Venezuela are in fact not very important when you consider that the basic rights are threatened or eliminated: fair trial, freedom of expression and information, security, propriety rights, etc... When the rights that would allow a modest closeted live are constantly threatened, where is the time to promote gay rights?