France just became the 14th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. France never seems to do anything quickly, but they accomplished this feat in just a few short months, which is actually pretty incredible to me. It certainly helped that President Hollande’s political party dominates the country’s two parliamentary houses. But this legislation is all the more striking to me as a dual American/French citizen, considering that here in the States this particular battle has been fraught for so long, despite the incredible progress that’s been made at the state level in the last few years.
France drives me crazy on a lot of issues. I worry that its bloated social welfare policies are going to ruin the country economically. It sucks that if you’re a college student in France the odds of finding a decent job upon graduation are slim. And although U.S. college students are more disadvantaged on this score than they used to be, in France this has been the case for years and years.
I’m not a fan of the educational system at the secondary level, which places too much emphasis on choosing a course of study when kids are still teenagers and can’t possibly know what they want to do with their lives. And it’s disturbing to read about incidents of bias stemming from prejudice and anti-semitism in a country that has seen more than its share of religious persecution over the years.
The amount of red tape one needs to cut through in order to get anything done in France is astounding. And I am still looking to discover a French Web site that’s well designed and easy to navigate.
And yet…and yet.
The French still know how to appreciate life and their savoir-vivre lives on, despite the invasion of technology that has made it more difficult to separate work from play. They certainly know how to enjoy the finer things in life. And their cultural treasures are second to none.
And although the country is not always as accepting of the diversity of its inhabitants as it should be, it sometimes surprises with its tolerance. The gay marriage vote is one of those times. One might argue that the secularism mandated by France’s constitution can be taken too far, at the expense of freedom of expression (for example, the head scarf controversy a couple of years ago). But that same secularism, when invoked for the common good, also gives lawmakers the power to do the right thing if they’re so inclined, without the undue influence of religious groups. I wish there was more of that in the U.S.
Today is a proud day for France and its citizens. I can’t wait to tell our Frenchie daughters. They will be happy to know that one of their two countries has done the right thing. Vive la France!