Saturday’s demonstrations against the Socialist government’s proposal to legalise “marriage for all” have been organised by an alliance of groups calling itself “La Manif pour tous” (The demo for all).
Pope Benedict XVI called on the French Catholic Church to intervene "without letting up and with determination" on social issues in a speech given at the Vatican on Saturday.
The faithful should watch out for proposals that would "harm marriage between a man and a woman", as well as the "right to life" and bioethics, he said.
Eleven countries have now legalised gay marriage, against the opposition of the Catholic church.
It claims it is against homophobia but also opposes what it calls a “major, dangerous upheaval” which would ignore “the two principal pillars of human identity: sexual difference and line of parentage”.
Among its leaders are a certain “Frigide Barjot”, a flamboyant Catholic who claims to want to build opposition regardless of party affiliation, religion or sexual orientation, and UMP member Xavier Bongibault, who aspires to be the spokesperson for gays opposed to the measure.
The far-right Front National has not called on its members to attend any of the demonstrations, while leaving them free to go.
UMP national secretary Jean-François Copé, who faces former prime minister François Fillon in an election for party leader on Sunday, has called on party members and supporters to attend the Saturday demonstrations.
Civitas, the organisers of Sunday’s rally, aim to bring about 30 coachloads of supporters to Paris, mobilised by the slogan “Family, yes; homofolly, no!”
The organisation, whose aim is to “rechristianise France”, has organised headline-grabbing protests against plays and artworks it deems “blasphemous” and works with other far-right Catholics and nationalists.
Homosexuality is a “weakness which needs to be corrected and a person with such weaknesses should be abstemious”, Civitas leader Alain Escada has said.
Muslim clerics have joined a majority of Catholic priests in opposing same-sex marriage.