If you did not know it, French President Francois Hollande does perform miracles … Forget about the « normal » man. In just a few months, Hollande and his government have managed to resurrect from the dead the religious right in France. Mind you, it was not easy. Gay marriage (« le marriage pour tous ») was hardly a contentious topic in France, one of most, if not the most secular country of Western Europe. The UMP (the main opposition party) whose image had been badly damaged by a leadership crisis had originally little appetite for this battle. Honestly nobody really cared in the first place … The “why not?” should have prevailed easily. But by choosing the blitzkrieg/militant approach, by linking gay marriage with adoption and assisted reproductive technology, Hollande has managed to turn the topic into a potentially pivotal moment for the French far right, something even more federating than the fear of Islamization.
As the law was being voted at the French Parliament, the aggressive strategy of rightist militants only mirrored that of the leftist government. The intellectual debate was almost non-existent on both sides (despite some valuable effort on the side of the catholic church). France has not taken yet the « post-secular turn » dear to Habermas.
So far France had avoided the American type of « Culture War », but with the rise of identity politics and the emergence of a right-left neo-liberal consensus, the front-line as well as the alliances are quickly moving. (Listen to some supposedly leftist intellectuals speaking about Muslim immigrants for instance …).
It is still unclear whether the Right will seek to overturn the law, when it comes back to office. A realist like Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has already made the commonsensical remark that it will be impossible to “unmarried” couples. In the meantime, the French government has offered the extreme right a new myth (« the French Spring », the french version of the Arab Spring), a martyr (Dominique Venner, a French neopagan who in his last posting on his blog before committing suicide at Notre Dame was quoting Heidegger rather than the Bible …) and a new experience of popular mobilization that was no longer part of its tradition since the death of Charles Maurras.
Is France heading toward a “Culture War” … a few decades after the US? After all, France is not that special.