Paris — Several hundred thousand people converged at the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Sunday to protest the French president’s plan to legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt and conceive children.
The protest march started at three points across Paris, filling streets throughout the city as demonstrators walked more than 3 miles to the grounds of the Eiffel Tower. Paris police estimated the crowd at 340,000, making it one of the largest demonstrations in Paris since an education protest in 1984.
Many of the protesters came after long train and bus rides from the French provinces.
President Francois Hollande has pledged to push through a marriage equality law with his Socialists’ parliamentary majority, but public opposition — spearheaded by religious leaders — has dampened popularity of Hollande’s plan in recent months.
About 52 percent of French favor legalizing same-sex marriage, according to a survey released Sunday, down from as high as 65 percent in August.
The opposition to Hollande’s plan has underscored divisions among the secular-but-Catholic French, especially in more traditional rural areas, versus urban enclaves. And while polls reflect the majority of French citizens still support marriage equality, support is not as widespread for adoption and artificial insemination.
“The French are tolerant, but they are deeply attached to the family and the defense of children,” said Daniel Liechti, vice-president of the National Council of French Evangelicals, which urged its members to join the march.