Hundreds of thousands of people from across France gathered in Paris on Sunday to oppose President Francois Hollande's plan to legalize same-sex marriage, which would allow gay couples to adopt and conceive children.
Police estimated about 340,000 people participated in the "demo for all" march to oppose a proposed legislation billed as "marriage for all." It was one of the largest demonstrations in the French capital since an education protest in 1984, according to The Associated Press.
Organizers claimed more than 800,000 people turned out to oppose the proposal. Protesters started the march from three points in the city, walking up to four miles to converge at the grounds of the Eiffel Tower.
Protesters – Catholics, conservatives, Muslims and evangelicals – brought their children to the demonstration, where some placards read, "Born of a man and a woman."
"This law is going to lead to a change of civilization that we don't want," Philippe Javaloyes, a protester, was quoted as saying. "We have nothing against different ways of living, but we think that a child must grow up with a mother and a father."
Hollande's Socialist Party is expected to introduce the bill on Tuesday, and voting will follow public debate at the end of this month.
Melissa Michel, a Franco-American mother of five, said, "They're talking about putting into national identity cards Parent 1, Parent 2, Parent 3, Parent 4. Mom, dad and the kids are going to be wiped off the map, and that's going to be bad for any country, any civilization."
A speaker at the demonstration, Francois Geobiry, told the crowd, "For such an important social change, there needs to be support from the majority of people. It's a really considerable change we're making to society," according to Euronews.
"I hope the demonstration will have an impact. The fact that so many people have taken to the streets shows that it is in fact a law which is not accepted by lots of people. What we need now is a referendum," a protester, Guillaume Romaneix, said.
France has a strict separation of church and state, but Roman Catholicism has been the predominant religion in the country. Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, the archbishop of Paris, has said the measure "would be a transformation of marriage that would affect everyone."
The legislation is part of the 60 pledges Hollande made in his election manifesto last year. The cabinet approved the draft law in November, and it will be presented to parliament on Jan. 29.
Socialist Party leader Harlem Desir says the proposal will be carried out despite protests. "The right to protest is protected in our country, but the Socialists are determined to give the legal right to marry and adopt to all those who love each other," he was quoted as saying. "This is the first time in decades in our country that the right and the extreme right are coming into the streets together to deny new rights to the French."
If approved by parliament, the law will make France the 12th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.