In an amendment passed by French MPs on Tuesday night, schools are to replace the words “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2” as part of a wider so-called law to build “a school of trust”, which includes compulsory attendance for all three-year-old children. The amendment can still be rejected by the majority-Right Senate but will then return to the National Assembly for a final reading.
Valérie Petit, MP for the majority REM party of President Emmanuel Macron, said, “This amendment aims to root in law children’s family diversity in administrative forms submitted in school.” Ms. Petit said that the words mother and father, on all school documents such as pertaining to the canteen or authorising children to go on excursions, no longer took into account the recently-passed gay marriage law, nor the existence of same sex parents. Additionally, she added, “We have families who find themselves faced with tick boxes stuck in rather old-fashioned social and family models. For us, this article is a measurement of social equality.”
Supporters of the change say it will stop discrimination against same sex parents. Socialist MP Joaquim Pueyot praised the reform as “a question of respect and dignity. You cannot imagine the consequences when children don’t feel treated like the others,” he said. FCPE, France’s biggest parent’s federation, called “a very good thing” and that “It echos the (recent) law on fighting harassment because often situations of child harassment target kids who don’t fit the current criteria.”
Critics argue it “dehumanises” parenthood, is “ugly”, and could lead to rows over who gets to be “parent 1” and the decision angered those on the conservative political spectrum, including the mainstream Republicans. Conservative MP Xavier Breton said: “When I hear people say this is an old-fashioned model, I would remind people that today among unions celebrated, civil or marital, some 95 per cent are man-woman couples.” Conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo denounced a “frightening ideology, which in the name of limitless egalitarianism promotes removing points of reference, including those regarding the family”. MP Eric Ciotti said, “The negation of gender deconstructs the balance of our society.”
AFDH, the French association for same sex parents, said that while it welcomed providing a way for such parents to be “included in forms”, it warned it could create a “parental hierarchy”. AFDH President Alexandre Urwicz asked, “Who is ‘parent number 1’ and who is ‘parent number 2’?” He called for more “inclusive” forms including the boxes “father, mother and legal representative”.
The idea of replacing mother and father by parent 1 and 2 was already mooted during the debate leading to the 2013 law legalising same sex marriage but was not inscribed into legislation at the time. Current Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer opposed the amendment on the grounds that this need not be a legislative matter.
Jordan Bardella, who is heading the National Rally’s candidates ahead of the spring European Parliament election, said the move was part of an attempt to “ideologically condition children” and that “totalitarianism is not far off”.